The Braille Monitor
39, No. 2
Barbara Pierce, Editor
Published in inkprint, in Braille, and on cassette by
The National Federation of the Blind
Marc Maurer, President
1800 Johnson Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21230
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THE NATIONAL FEDERATION
OF THE BLIND IS
NOT AN ORGANIZATION
SPEAKING FOR THE BLIND--IT IS THE BLIND SPEAKING FOR THEMSELVES
Vol. 39, No. 2 February 1996
STILL MORE ABOUT MOBILITY
by Kenneth Jernigan
INTERIM VICTORY IN THE DUCOTE
by Scott LaBarre
SAVORING HIS ACHIEVEMENTS
PAGE ASSESSES TENURE
by Emily Narvaes
CONTROVERSY AT THE REHABILITATION
IN NORTHERN MISSISSIPPI
by Kenneth Jernigan
STATUS OF THE NATIONAL LITERARY BRAILLE COMPETENCY TEST
EIGHTY ISN'T OLD
by Polly Weedman
THE NEWSLINE NETWORK: A
NEWSPAPER SERVICE FOR THE BLIND
by Kenneth Jernigan
REPORT FROM THE CLASSROOM:
MAKES A DIFFERENCE
by Betty Walker
SUPPORT, SPUNK HELP BOY
BEST HIS BLINDNESS
by Nancy Vessell
IT CAN BE DONE
by Wayne Davis
TAKING A STEP IN THE RIGHT
by Kimberly Aguillard
THE GREATEST GIFT
by Pamela Dubel
CALIFORNIA HERE WE COME!
by Pat and Jack Munson
DIALYSIS INFORMATION FOR
by Ed Bryant
Copyright 1996 National Federation of the Blind
[LEAD PHOTO: This month's lead photograph is actually two. The upper one shows Richard Ring and Tony Cobb, who is wearing sleepshades, both standing in front of the National Center for the Blind in blizzard conditions. The sign on the building can be clearly read. The bottom photograph is a closer view of the two men, both using their canes. The photograph shows clearly the great depth of the snow. CAPTION: By the time the staff at the National Center for the Blind began making their way to work on Monday morning, January 8, 1996, two feet of snow had fallen, and more was on the way. Baltimore is not accustomed to such enthusiastic demonstrations of winter weather, so not everyone on the staff was able to make it to work that day. But many did. Two of those who did were Richard Ring (left), the new Director of the International Braille and Technology Center for the Blind, and Tony Cobb (right), a longtime, many-talented member of the NFB's national staff. They took the opportunity presented by the weather to have Mr. Cobb give Mr. Ring a travel lesson in real blizzard conditions.]
[#1 PHOTO: A group of people with their guide dogs stand talking. CAPTION: Federationists stand talking at the meeting of the National Association of Guide Dog Users.
#2 PHOTO: People are seated with their dogs lying at their feet. CAPTION: Federationists take part in the meeting of the guide dog division.
#3 PHOTO: People are seated at a table with a modesty drape hanging to the floor. A guide dog lying under the table has poked its head under the edge of the drape and is looking out at the camera. CAPTION: It can get boring lying under a table with nothing to look at, even at a meeting of the National Association of Guide Dog Users.
#4 PHOTO: A toddler drapes her arm around the neck of a guide dog. The two are about the same size. CAPTION: A gentle guide dog and a friendly child get acquainted at the convention of the National Federation of the Blind.]
STILL MORE ABOUT MOBILITY
by Kenneth Jernigan
When we decided last summer to devote an upcoming issue of the Monitor to the topic of mobility methods for the blind, the purpose was to bring the subject out of the closet into the realm of rational discussion. That purpose has been accomplished. As is always the case with controversial questions, a few people have refused to deal with the issues, resorting instead to emotionalism and name calling. Let me hasten to add that the number of those doing this has been gratifyingly small.
Let me also say that (as will be indicated by the letter making up the bulk of this article) there is more disagreement among guide-dog users themselves on certain issues than might have been expected. For instance, should we have a dog-relief area somewhere in or immediately adjacent to the hotel at National Conventions? Should guide- dog users expect to clean up after their dogs, or should this be the responsibility of the hotel or someone hired by the convention? Should dog users pay for the cost of clean- up, or should this be a regular convention expense? On all of these questions (and a great many more) some feel one way, and some another. The important thing is that we keep the discussion in the area of what is being talked about, not whether the person doing the talking is good or bad or has a good or bad character or motive.
Then there are questions which involve fact and which one would think were not just matters of opinion. But here, too, there are widely differing views. For instance, is one of the advantages of a dog that it can detect overhanging objects and help its owner avoid bumps and bruises? Some say yes; some say no. And what about speed of travel? Does the average person using a cane travel more slowly than the average person using a dog? Again, there are differing opinions. Something turns, of course, on what one means by being a "good cane traveler" or a "good dog user." If you feel that you need to ask someone to help you in crossing a busy street and if, at the same time, you contend that you are a competent traveler with either dog or cane, some say that your contention is not accurate. These are just a few of the many disputed issues.
We carried a follow-up to the October issue in the January, 1996, Braille Monitor. It presented an exchange of letters showing some of the reaction I had received. Now we are publishing another set of correspondence. We are doing this in the interest of giving full coverage to a topic that can be touchy and divisive if not handled carefully but that is too important to be hidden from discussion. We in the Federation have never hesitated to face reality, and I think most of us like it that way.
As to the letter which makes up the bulk of this article, it speaks for itself. It contains a good many allegations with which I disagree, and it also has a number of errors of fact. I did not, for instance, decide to edit the October issue of the Monitor on impulse as the letter states, and I did not say or imply that I did. I did it carefully and deliberately. Furthermore, I did it with the full knowledge that the subject would be controversial and that a few people would accuse me of doing, saying, and believing what I had not done or said or believed. I thought the issues were important enough to need discussing and that I was the one to do it, so I did. But there was certainly nothing of impulse about it.
A number of statements in the letter are simply not true. I have not "bashed" guide-dog schools. Those who make this charge are invited to show me chapter and verse. The introductory statement to the second article in the October Monitor, which is all I believe I have ever said either pro or con about guide-dog schools, was not an attack on guide- dog schools but on certain types of fundraising. Read it again, and judge for yourself.
Likewise, I am not "anti-dog." As I said in the October Monitor, I grew up with a dog and loved it dearly. If someone chooses to ignore that fact and simply insist that it isn't so, then we are not dealing with rational discourse but only with name calling. As to the more emotional portions of the letter (those that talk about "dog-bashing," "loathing," and "detesting") I have no response to make. My record of dealing with my fellow Federationists (whether with kindness or meanness) speaks for itself. So does what I said in the October Monitor, and so does what I have said since. So, too, does what others have said.
The topic we are discussing is important, but it is not as important as our overall relationship with each other in the movement. We must remember that we are brothers and sisters in a common cause and that how we treat each other will not only have a great deal to do with determining our success as an organization but will also be a strong indicator of whether we deserve to succeed.
With this article, along with those that appeared in the October and January issues, I think we have pretty well explored the subject of mobility. Anything more would probably bring only repetition and anger. Therefore, regardless of what kind of letters I get, I would not anticipate any more articles in the Monitor on this aspect of mobility for at least the next year or two. This does not mean that I am unwilling to receive or respond to letters about it, just that I don't intend to print them. I think the discussion has been extremely worthwhile and helpful but that we should now take time to think about and digest it. Anybody who feels the need for additional data can probably find it by rereading what we have already printed.
Meanwhile, here is the latest round of correspondence. You will observe that I have omitted the names and as much of the identifying data as possible. As I have said, the purpose is not name calling and personalities but the exchange of information and viewpoint:
[postmarked December 23, 1995]
Dear Doctor Jernigan:
This letter is in response to the October issue of the Braille Monitor regarding methods of travel for blind persons. You stated that Barbara Pierce was doing a good job as editor of the Monitor but on an impulse you decided to edit this issue. You said that this was the last time you would indulge such an impulse but then, again, you might. The next time you have such an impulse, if it pertains to guide dog issues, squelch it. This October issue of the Monitor could have disastrous consequences for the Federation, guide dog users, and guide dog schools. The feelings expressed in my letter are strong, but I believe they are justified in responding to the caustic views of many of the contributors to this issue. If I did not value and respect you personally and if I did not love and care for the Federation, I would not write this letter.
This issue was harmful to guide dog users, particularly those users who are members of the Federation. I do not know if people who do not use guide dogs such as yourself, Doctor Matson, and Ramona Walhof can be fully aware of the hurt and anger aroused by your comments. Since these comments reflect the thinking of the leadership, they must be taken seriously and addressed forthrightly.
I began traveling with a cane at age sixteen and continued using a cane as my primary method of mobility until I obtained my first guide dog at age thirty-two. First I was taught by an instructor at the Industrial Home for the Blind and later by an instructor from the Queens Lighthouse in New York City. We were instructed to ask for assistance and to take someone's arm when crossing streets. My cane travel skills were adequate, and I was not afraid to use a cane to travel independently wherever I wanted to go throughout New York City.
There was a crazy lady in my neighborhood. We called her Herman German. She would frequently accost me at the subway exit and tell me that I could not travel safely unless I had a dog. I told her to leave me alone and that I would never get a dog. I also told Toni Eames that I would never get a dog, and when I said it I meant it.
I changed my mind when I worked as a tape checker at Recordings for the Blind, which at that time was located in New York City. My co-worker shot past me one day with his dog, and I decided that I just had to try it. I went to Guiding Eyes for the Blind in 1976 and obtained ____, my first guide dog. First experiences can not be duplicated, and I can only say that my first walk with ____ (it was almost a jog) was unbelievably exhilarating. I have used two dogs since for the next twenty years, as my primary means of mobility. I have obtained two additional dogs, ____ and ____. I do not have a "mystical bond" with my dogs. The truth is, the dog beats a cane all hollow. Of course this is my opinion, and I am speaking only for myself.
Advantages of Guide Dogs
In your article you said that you believed that one advantage of a guide dog was its ability to avoid overhanging obstacles. As a confirmed guide dog user I am sorry to say that I disagree with you. Most of the time the dog looks straight ahead, avoiding obstacles in the path of its owner. Sooner or later the dog runs its owner into an overhanging object such as a tree limb. A strong verbal and/or leash correction brings the dog back to reality. For a period of time the dog is on the look out for overhanging objects and does a good job of avoiding them. Sooner or later the dog lapses into forgetfulness, and the cycle of praise and correction is again repeated.
In your article you said that a cane can not read signs, and it can not talk either. A guide dog can not talk, but it can sometimes give you away. When I was having a problem, a trainer from Seeing Eye came to work with me when I was living in Washington, D. C. When we reached Mike's Liquor Store, my dog came to a dead stop. "Do you come here often?" the trainer asked. I told the trainer that Mike's had a great selection of beers, and the owner was very accommodating. What could I say: the dog was just doing his job.
Are there advantages to using a guide dog? You bet there are. Let me count the ways.
1. Dog guide users travel faster than cane users. Let me be clearer: guide dog users travel much faster than cane users. Sure, there are some cane users who walk very fast with a cane. Yes, there are some dog users who travel slowly with their dogs. But to deny the superior speed of guide dog users is to deny reality. Doug Elliott taught me a new word; the word is avoidance. I love it. To deny the fact that guide dog users travel much faster than cane users is to practice avoidance.
2. A guide dog user travels with grace, ease, and fluidity which is unmatched by cane travelers. I can carry on a conversation with a co-worker or friend when walking with my dog. Travel with a cane requires such a high degree of work and concentration that conversation is neither practicable nor safe.
3. A guide dog user has a tremendous advantage when traveling in ice or snow. A well-trained guide dog will walk its owner around ice and will find paths through the snow when familiar landmarks have been obliterated. Paul Kay, who formerly also traveled primarily with a cane, once said to me that when it snows the dogs are literally worth their weight in gold.
4. Pure Enjoyment. From childhood I have always loved animals. I could be sitting in a room full of people, and a dog will come up to me to be petted. Since my family lived in a small row house in Queens, New York, I could not have a dog. Imagine the luxury of being able to go virtually everywhere with a dog; and, if you are blind, it is perfectly legal.
Disadvantages of Guide Dogs
The idea was expressed in the October issue that guide dog users are unaware of the disadvantages of guide dogs. Contrary to popular belief, being a guide dog user is not synonymous with being an idiot. We know that we have to take our dogs out in the rain and the snow and that we incur expenses for food and medical bills. One should candidly admit that there are disadvantages to using a guide dog. This should not make guide dog users humble or apologetic or accept the silly notion that we are preventing ourselves or other blind persons from achieving equality. More about that later.
Advantages of Canes
Of course, the cane has tremendous advantages. A cane is inexpensive and does not have to be fed. When I went to Seeing Eye to train with ____ in January, 1994, it cost about $28,000 to train a unit, the term used to describe a user and his dog. I am sure that the costs have increased since then, but I don't know the current figure. I have nothing against canes since I often use one myself. When I arrive at work, I chain my dog to my desk. I use a cane to walk to the rest room, get coffee, and attend meetings and other office functions.
Disadvantages of Canes
1. Canes can cause embarrassment or harm to others. When I was a graduate student, an elderly lady was reading for me at the public library. The reading room may hold up to 200 people who are quietly and intently reading pertinent materials. As we entered the reading room, she tripped over my long white cane and fell on the floor moaning. I do not know whether this incident was my fault or whether she inadvertently tripped over the cane by not looking where she was going. I asked her several times if she was all right, but she continued to lie on the floor, moaning. I finally had enough of her Academy Award performance, reached out my hand, and helped her to her feet.
Regardless of who was to blame, the incident was embarrassing.
A blind friend of mine in New York City told me that he once injured a lady while traveling with his cane. He said that the cane went between her legs and caused injuries which sent her to the hospital. I understand that this type of thing does not happen all the time, but such things sometimes happen.
A female member of the Kansas City chapter told me about an incident which occurred at one of our national conventions. She said that she told a man using a cane that if he got any closer to her with that cane, they would have to get married.
2. Cane users evoke pity in the general public. On one occasion, when I was traveling with my cane in New York City, I got off a subway train and started across the platform to catch another train. Without speaking, someone grabbed me by my left arm and pulled me to the left, which prevented me from moving. I said, "Sir, what are you doing?" He told me that he was trying to take me up the stairs. I told him that I was trying to go across the platform to catch a train and did not want to go up the stairs. The gentleman told me that he saw all of them blind people every day going to the home, so he knew where I wanted to go. I asked this man if he was referring to the Jewish Guild for the Blind. I told him that this was an agency for the blind and not a home. The man mumbled something which was incoherent, and I proceeded to catch my train.
On another occasion when using a cane, I reached the top of the subway stairs when I was grabbed by the arm, causing me to fall backward. I shook off the arm, regained my balance, and went down the steps to the platform. Such assistance can be dangerous to blind persons. When you use a guide dog, people generally leave you alone, assuming that either the master, or perhaps his dog, knows what he is doing.
Doctor Brown said it best when she said that there is no debate regarding guide dog use, sighted guides, or cane travel. Lizzie really nailed it when she said that it is our blindness which makes people uncomfortable, not our mode of travel.
To be honest, I think that most of us are aware of the advantages and disadvantages of using guide dogs, canes, and sighted guides. The problem is how we deal with each other. I wish to take strong exception to the context in which you placed two incidents which you referenced involving guide dogs. Since you are a man of integrity, I believe that these incidents happened as you described.
You referred to an incident at a national convention when a guide dog became sick near the platform. You said that the smell was unappetizing and that the master was a competent guide dog user. I am sure that the incident was distressing. From your description I would bet that the most embarrassed person in the audience was the master of the dog which became sick. The point is that these incidents do not happen all the time. They are the exception to the rule. If these incidents happened all the time, we could not take out our dogs in public. Using a dog would not be practicable, and all of us would need to travel either with a cane or sighted guide. There is no guarantee that such an incident either could not or would not happen again. However, this incident is over. It happened and it is history. It was not a tragedy of major proportions like Somalia or Bosnia. Somehow you survived; the Federation survived; and life goes on. However, you continue to be obsessed by this incident.
You also relate an incident in which a guide dog owner visited the home of a friend. You said that the dog's toenails did extensive damage to the wooden floors of the friend's home. The friend incurred considerable expense in polishing the wooden floors. You said that the friend was so embarrassed that he would not tell the guide dog owner about the damage done by his dog and that he would deny knowledge of this incident if cornered.
Apparently the friend told you, and now we all know about this incident. Now we are all aware of the problems caused by this person's dog. This is an interesting and strange friendship. A true friend is someone who tells it to you like it is, even if the truth is unpleasant or even shocking. In this case the offended individual tells you about the damage done to his home, but he does not tell his friend. Did the offending dog user learn about the damage caused by his dog? The home owner could have been tactful and diplomatic, but the friend should have been told and should have compensated his friend for the damage caused by his dog.
I guess my personal reaction is that I must have a different set of friends. As you know, I have belonged to the Barbershop Society, which encourages and preserves the style of four-part harmony barbershop singing which was prevalent in the early 1900's. When I was a member of the chorus in Washington, D. C., a member told me that he would give me a ride to and from meetings each week. He also told me that he would place a blanket on the back seat so that my dog would not get hair on the seat of his car. He was kindly but firm. His tone was not angry, belligerent, or insulting. When I thought it over, I realized that my friend was right and that my dog would get hair on the seat of his car. I knew that my friend's conditions for giving the ride were reasonable. We placed the blanket on the back seat, and my dog lay on the blanket, and life went on.
My reader at work recently said to me "Your dog is shedding big time. When we returned from our last investigation, someone complained about dog hair in the GSA car. The next time you need to bring a sheet to cover the seat of the car." To escape that verbal tongue lashing, I would gladly have sold my kids into slavery, mortgaged the house, or walked in bare feet over a bed of burning coals. I brought the sheet the next time we conducted an on-site investigation. Honesty and common sense can go a long way in resolving guide dog issues.
Dogs as Ice Breakers
Guide dog users should never use their dog as an ice breaker or because we think that the dog will protect us from danger. They are working dogs, and idle chit chat distracts them from their duties.
Of course, it is not always easy to deflect unwanted attention from the public. My dog is a beautiful golden retriever who attracts attention like a magnet. I am willing to answer general questions about the dog and its training. When people make inane comments such as "I'm sure he is a wonderful friend or a wonderful companion," I tell them that he is a working dog and not a friend or companion.
I have two children; a twelve-year-old boy and a ten- year- old girl. When I walked into a store with my son, someone congratulated him for taking such good care of his daddy. I told this fool that my wife and I are the ones who go to work and pay the bills.
I guess one solution would be to run away and hide and never appear in public with our dogs or our children. Since this is not possible, we must carry on. We must face the fact that most people are kind, friendly, and helpful; but some people will never understand anything about blindness. That should be their problem, not ours.
Funding for Guide Dog Schools
In your article you chastised a guide dog school for a fund-raising letter which you believe implied that the only road for blind persons to lead independent lives was through obtaining a guide dog. Your response was unduly harsh and inflammatory.
Heidi Vandewinkel tells us that while using a cane she fell down a flight of stairs. This incident made her anxious or should we say desperate to obtain her next dog. The blunt truth is that there are a lot of Heidis out there who are a menace to themselves and others when they use a cane. For many blind persons the only choice is either to travel with a guide dog or not travel at all. Also there are other blind people who have been so poorly trained and are so uncomfortable using a cane that a dog is the only practicable alternative.
How do you account for countless blind people such as Paul Kay, Rick Fox, my wife, and myself who used a cane for years and who now use a guide dog as their primary method of mobility?
Obviously we find the dog to be a more efficient and effective means of getting around. We are fully aware of the disadvantages inherent in using a dog, but we are willing to pay the price.
Yes, guide dogs are used by blind persons to go to work, to the store, the doctor, the bank, and to social events. Surely it can be said without exaggeration that the dog is a means of enabling blind people to lead independent, productive lives.
Regarding this fund-raising letter, the school is not totally without blame. The letter laid it on a bit thick, especially in the postscript. It should be kept in mind that people receive many solicitation letters, and it is hard to pry people loose from their cold, hard cash. They must be given an incentive to help the specified cause. Helping blind persons achieve independence is a valid reason for contributing money, and it takes a lot of money to run a good guide dog program.
Training at Guide Dog Schools
The point was made with justification that the training at guide dog schools is minimal and could be greatly improved. Looking at reality explains why the training is minimal.
A guide dog class is a polyglot of persons from all walks of life. A class might be comprised of college professors like Bill Isaacs, Ed Lewinsohn, and Paul Gabias, or a clinical social worker such as Doug Elliott. The class also has people who can not walk and chew gum at the same time. Their intelligence quotients may be two points above plant life. However, quite often the less intellectually endowed turn out to be better users than the intellectuals. Dogs are simple animals and respond well to routine. The less endowed usually follow directions to the letter and do not constantly question or overanalyze the directions provided by their instructors.
Somehow, in less than three weeks, the school must teach this amalgam of persons the basics regarding traveling with and caring for their dogs. Among other things the class is taught how to groom their dogs and do obedience, assemble harnesses, put on and remove leashes and muzzles, administer oral and liquid medications, and clean the eyes, ears, and teeth of their dogs. Viewed from this perspective, the schools do an amazing job. Of course, the schools could and should do better if we would just work with them instead of constantly bashing them. Give the schools a break. Keep in mind that many blind persons attend a school for the blind for twelve years and graduate not being able to read or write Braille or travel with a long white cane. Incredibly, these people must then be sent to a rehabilitation program for further training.
My fear is that the minimal training offered at guide dog schools is being diluted, at Seeing Eye and perhaps at other guide dog schools. When I went to the January, 1994, class to obtain my dog, the students were given the option of calling their instructors by their first names. In the past we would call the instructor Mr. Johnson or Miss Carlson, and in turn they would call us Mr. Jones or Miss Smith. This may seem trivial, but I believe it may be symptomatic of a gradual loosening of the rules and a watering down of training.
When I obtained my previous dog ____ in 1984, students were expected to travel solo routes. At the end of training students were expected to master the dreaded high school route. This is no longer the case. An instructor told me that students were having stress diarrhea, and it was not worth it to have this requirement. Another official at Seeing Eye said that students would not need to know the streets of Morristown, New Jersey, when they returned home. Therefore, it was not imperative for students to learn and memorize travel routes. It is true that students do not have to retain knowledge of the streets of Morristown to travel successfully at home, but learning a route and mastering it is a good confidence builder.
Human behavior, both good and bad, is formed by habit. Over several days students practiced grooming their dogs and doing obedience. When I obtained ____, I knew that eventually the students would be taught how to clean up after their dogs. I waited and waited and waited, but this activity was not demonstrated. An instructor said that students thought that the school was torturing them when they were asked to practice this technique. Whether guide dog users should be encouraged or required to clean up after their dogs is debatable. Seeing Eye encourages students to clean up, which means that this is a good thing to do. This technique should be learned and strongly reinforced through demonstration and practice during class.
Guide Dogs and Conventions
In his article Steve Benson asked why guide dog users bring their dogs to NFB national conventions. This is a very good question, which I find hard to answer. I think that a person who does not use a dog can not fully understand the quandary faced by a dog user.
I have done it both ways. I have brought my dogs to most national conventions, but there were other occasions when I left my dog at home. When I brought my dog, I ask myself why I subjected the dog to crowded elevators, crowded hotels, and a highly stressful environment. On the other hand when I left my dog at home, I felt that something was missing, and I felt uncomfortable using a cane, which I do not use as my primary method of mobility most of the year. When I walk several blocks to a restaurant with a group of Federationists using a cane, I realize how much hard work it is, and I vow that I will never leave my dog at home again.
We need to do away with one myth right away. Dogs do not have accidents, mishaps, or indiscretions. An accident happens when you knock a glass of milk off the table or drop jelly or coffee on your new suit. When dogs consume dog food or drink water, they process or eliminate the food or water by urinating or defecating. Under normal circumstances taking the dog out for relief four times per day will ensure that the process will take place in appropriate locations. During busy conventions people may not take their dog out as often as necessary. Stress do to unusual conditions may cause the dog to process food and water at an inappropriate or inopportune time, such as in a hotel lobby.
If this happens, it would help if people use common sense. It is inconceivable to me that four dogs could have relieved themselves in a dining area without guide dog users being aware of these occurrences and taking appropriate action. But folks, get a grip and see where the rubber meets the road. A process is not a major tragedy. It would help tremendously if the dog user would remain where he is and tell people passing by that his dog has had a process instead of fleeing the scene of the crime as I did at my first national convention in New Orleans in 1977. Overwhelmed with embarrassment, I behaved irresponsibly by leaving the process for some one else to handle. Of course, the National Association of Guide Dog Users (NADGU) reminds dog users of their agreement to take their dogs out to relief four times per day, and it would also help if dog users and cane travelers behaved in an adult manner when a process occurs.
Instead of screaming in the face of the dog user and calling him obscenities, the cane user could help the dog user by summoning assistance from hotel staff. In this way the process could be handled quickly and efficiently if action is taken immediately.
In 1983 our national convention was held in Kansas City, Missouri. A few months prior to convention I telephoned Bob Eschbach, who was head of the Guide Dog Committee, to ask what arrangements were being made for the convention. Bob said that he thought he would just leave that matter in my capable hands. Silently I cursed myself for opening my big mouth, but I told Bob, "Sure, I'll take care of it."
During the 1983 convention we were staying at three hotels. I provided instructions in print and in Braille for the route between the hotels and Barney Alice Plaza, which was the relief area. I also employed a temporary manpower service to clean up the park. Bob told me that this arrangement probably was not necessary since dog users should clean up after their dogs. Yes, and the moon is made out of green cheese. All I know is that an elderly employee spent several hours per day in the hot sun cleaning up the park. I considered it money well spent. Guide dog users reimbursed the Committee for clean-up expenses.
I am opposed to sand boxes outside the hotel as expensive and unworkable. A sand box quickly becomes a stinking pest hole, and my dogs will not use it. Furthermore, I don't blame them. Any dog user worth his salt should be able to walk a block or two from the hotel to find a park such as Grant Park in Chicago. This means that members of a host affiliate should be willing to show dog users the way to the park area. I want to applaud the fine work done by Steve Benson and the Illinois affiliate for the planning of the 1995 convention, and I wish he had spared the affiliate the time, trouble, and expense of providing and maintaining the sand box. I would recommend that the NFB dispense with sand boxes at future national conventions.
Role of the Division
I must congratulate Doug Elliott. He is from Iowa and has planted his corn early and reaped a rich harvest of psychobabble which he is seeking to foist on the guide dog division. It seems that Paul Gabias and Doug Elliott have been friends for a long time, and Paul is puzzled to find a great deal of anger in Doug's letters. I have figured it out, and I don't have a degree either in clinical social work or psychology.
In 1993 Doug married Peggy Pinder, who then became Peggy Elliott. Peggy is not only brilliant academically, but she is also a skilled and adroit cane traveler. Doug finds that he is not a model blind person since he is holding onto a harness, which is attached to this albatross of a dog. Paul Gabias said that he and Doug used to exult in the speed and freedom which their dogs gave them when they took walks together. Now all this has changed. Now Doug's mind is filled with reservations and confusion about the role of the dog in his life and the lives of other blind people.
In other words Doug is conflicted. Doug should do himself and the other members of NADGU a favor either by giving the dog away to Aunt Tilly or crating it up and shipping it back to the school from whence it came. His conflict would be ended. Doug could learn to use a cane effectively and become a model blind person.
In his letters Doug tells us that members of NADGU are unaware of the disadvantages of dogs. We are not aware that we must take our dogs out in bad weather, that some people are allergic to dogs, and that dogs shed.
I believe that all of the students who attended the February, 1994, class at Seeing Eye became aware that you must take your dogs out in bad weather when we were struck by an ice storm and a severe eighteen-inch snow storm. This storm closed the school, which was the only time the school closed in thirty years. As far as people being allergic to dogs, you would not believe how many allergic cab drivers there are in New York City and Washington, D. C. I have discussed shedding earlier: we all know about it.
NADGU does not have lengthy discussions concerning these aspects of guide dog use because we are fully aware of them. Discussing such topics would simply be a waste of time. Let us delve a little further. These are the words of a highly intelligent man who is disillusioned about his dog and seeks to infect other dog users with his disillusionment. I think that Doug is engaged in a not-to- subtle attempt to sabotage the work of the division. If so, I want no part of these so-called discussions.
Doug accuses the division of advocating for the use of guide dogs. This is true, to a point. I enjoy using a dog and feel that the advantages outweigh the disadvantages. I would never advise you or Steve Benson or Ramona Walhof to use a dog because you have no intention of doing so. I also am an advocate for marriage, being a parent, and owning a house. I recognize that marriage is not for everybody, that some people should not become parents, and that there are advantages to owning an apartment over a house.
I still recall Paul Kay advising Howard Neal that he should learn to use a cane before he even thought of getting a dog. Howard did not follow Paul's advice and raved enthusiastically about the dog. A year later Howard returned the dog to Guiding Eyes. Howard questioned me repeatedly about getting a dog, and I hope that my enthusiasm did not play a part in causing Howard to make a bad decision both for himself and for the dog.
Doug chastises both the division and Harness Up for uncritically accepting "propaganda" put out by the schools. The word "propaganda" is a pejorative term, and the criticism is unjustified. The school at San Rafael showed a fund-raising video at the 1995 NADGU meeting in Chicago. I thought that the film was acceptable, but Paul Kay and other members of NADGU were critical of the film.
The relevant question is not whether Paul Kay was right or I was right concerning this fund-raising film. The important point is that the school was not given a free pass at the meeting. The school and its representatives took their lumps at this meeting just as schools have been criticized at previous division meetings.
Doug criticizes the division for talking about dog issues rather than blindness issues. The bifurcation of dog issues and blindness issues is false. Doug fails to understand that, when you are a blind person and use a guide dog, dog issues are important. When I return home from work, I want to relax by watching the "McNeil Lehrer report" or listening to the football game. However, the dog has been chained to my desk all day and is bounding with energy. The dog needs fifteen minutes of structured play and at least a mile walk to keep his work habits sharp. A good dog user ignores the dog's needs at his peril.
Let us get to the heart of the matter regarding Doug's problem with the division. The main problem is that under the leadership of Paul Gabias dog users are proud of their dogs and confident in themselves. We do not wish to be treated as inferiors or superiors but as equals. We no longer adopt a posture of submissive apology in the presence of cane users. We treat cane users with respect and wish to be respected in turn. This is a new posture, which people such as Doug Elliott seem to find unsettling. I for one, welcome the change.
Pros and Cons--Who Said What to Whom? Ramona Walhof
Ramona tells us that guide dogs would be okay if they kept their feet on the ground, their tongues in their mouths, and came equipped with a doggie deodorant. This hoity toity response from a blind person who has never used a guide dog is replete with elitism and arrogance.
What about this doggie odor issue? Do guide dogs exude an overpowering, cloying odor? A dog may emit an odor, especially if it is not well groomed. A human being may emit an odor if he does not use proper hygiene. A dog which is properly groomed will not exude an odor which is repellent to others.
Ms. Walhof tells us that she would invite a guide dog user to her home. I would certainly hope so. I guess I am guilty of naive thinking. I assumed that a board member of the NFB would not have a problem inviting an NFB member who uses a guide dog to her home. This goes to show you what happens when you assume.
As expected, Diane's article was filled with humanity, wisdom, and common sense. However, even Diane goes astray when discussing the comparison between dogs and canes. She highly commends your wife for teaching her to become an effective cane user. Then she becomes apologetic and feels guilty when she obtains Dusty after learning to use a cane. She wonders how she will explain her decision to your wife about getting a dog. It seems perfectly reasonable to me to get a guide dog to enjoy walking at a rapid pace. As Doug Elliott rightly points out, with a cane you just get there, which is all he wants or needs. For some people such as Diane McGeorge and myself, this is not enough.
The axiom is that one should use a cane and not a dog and certainly not both. This is nonsense. Why should one have to make an either-or decision: I will either use a dog or a cane but not both. For a good guide dog user there are times when the dog should be used and other times when the dog should be left at home.
Doctor Floyd Matson
The article written by Doctor Matson is cold, logical, and analytical. It is also bizarre, annoying, tantalizing, and filled with hubris.
Doctor Matson gives a good summary of the perceived advantages of using dogs and canes. He then says that, if it were strictly a matter of personal choice, the issue would end there. At this point Doctor Matson should have put his pen down and called it a day.
Yes, the matter ends there. Simply put, canes are not better than dogs, and dogs are not better than canes. It is simply a matter of personal choice, and there are advantages and disadvantages to either choice.
However, Doctor Matson pulled no punches in his article, and we know exactly what he said. If true, this would be a devastating commentary on guide dogs and the selfish and ignorant persons who use them and foist them on a gullible and over tolerant public. Doctor Matson states that dog users will never achieve equality because they are using an accommodation which is enforced by law and politeness but is not accepted by society. Doctor Matson says that bringing a dog to a professional meeting would be tantamount to bringing a child to this meeting. Under these circumstances blind persons using guide dogs can not achieve equality.
He tells us that dogs shed, drool, smell, urinate, defecate, and lie at people's feet in restaurants and meetings. The good doctor says that we hope that the dog user will not come to our home or ask for a ride in our car. When observing the guide dog, we grit our teeth, smile less, and pity more. These are not my words but his: these are the words of the illustrious Doctor Matson.
As we read on, the story gets stranger and murkier. As I read I am smiling less, gritting my teeth more, and finding my distaste for this curmudgeon increasing word by word.
Picture this: Doctor Matson says that he has worked with blind people for years and spends most of his time associating with blind people. Did he spend his time associating with cane users while excluding guide dog users from his company? If he associated with guide dog users, did he invite them to his home or offer them rides in his car while gritting his teeth more and enjoying it less? Was he polite to them in their company while secretly loathing and detesting them and their dogs? It sounds as though Doctor Matson did a good job of masking his antipathy for guide dogs and their owners. However, he could conceal his frustration no longer and decided that since guide dog bashing was now in vogue, it was finally time to come out of the closet.
It would have been far more honest if Doctor Matson let guide dog owners know that he detested dogs and did not want them in his home or in his car. Guide dog users can deal with that. After all, a man's home or his apartment, whatever it may be, is his castle. I would prefer that a person be up front and tell me that they did not want my dog in their car or their home. In this case I would use a cane or make some other arrangements. I would also wonder why a man spends so much time in an organization which at least nominally accepts guide dog users as members.
You have told us and Doctor Matson also tells us that he has always supported the rights of guide dog users. The question is why. It should logically follow that a restaurant owner who throws a guide dog user out of his restaurant or a cab driver who refuses to transport a dog user is right. As you both state that the dogs may shed, drool, smell, etc., isn't there a conflict here? Under the circumstances how can you enthusiastically support a legal claim for an accommodation which you find loathsome and detestable? Do you and Doctor Matson support the rights of guide dog users for political reasons or out of the goodness of your hearts?
The article by Gary Wunder is the most difficult to deal with because I know him, like him, and respect him. He is a personal friend and the President of the Missouri affiliate of the National Federation of the Blind. He is a former guide dog user, so he knows what he is talking about. However, our perspectives differ sharply, and I guess this is why I am still using a guide dog and he is not.
Gary says that he had a romanticized and idealized picture about using a guide dog. It is wonderful to romanticize and fantasize about all kinds of things until reality takes hold. I love history, but as a school teacher I quickly learned that a class of secretarial girls is not interested in the XYZ Affair or the Tariff of Abominations. I work for the Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights, as a civil rights investigator. People often join the Office for Civil Rights hoping to save the world. Their romantic and idealistic illusions are sometimes shattered when they find that all cases are not violations of civil rights statutes. The reality is that a complaint involving a student with a disability may show that a failing grade was the result of poor classroom performance rather than discrimination. The firing of a black teacher may stem from incompetence rather than from discrimination based on race. A school district may hire a male superintendent over a female applicant because the male was better qualified.
In the same vein, when a jeweler looks at a diamond, it may appear to be absolutely perfect. Further examination reveals minute flaws and imperfections. People may enter marriage vowing to love and cherish each other for the rest of their lives. One discovers a minute flaw here, a tiny imperfection there. Within less than ten years the marriage may end in divorce. Yes, life is like that.
Gary says that he worked his dog for six years, and in that time his dog had six processes. He says that he found these processes to be very embarrassing. I know the feeling because my dogs have occasionally had processes at inopportune times. Gary said that he could not determine that any of these processes resulted from his negligence, and I am sure this is true. However, this grades out to be only one process per year. These processes did not happen all of the time or even often. I would suspect that it is the randomness or unpredictability of these processes which bothers Gary.
It is true that a cane will never urinate, drool, or defecate. On the other hand, Gary will never achieve the speed and grace with a cane that he did with Ely. Say it ain't so, Gary.
Gary tells us that people acted with consternation when he attended parties with his dog where people were eating with plates of food on their laps. Gary solved the problem by not bringing his dog to these gatherings. My office often has lunches similar to the situation described by Gary. I find it difficult to hold my cane while carrying a plate of food and a drink and attempting to find a vacant chair. Balancing a plate of food on my lap and eating it with the plastic forks and knives provided can be tricky. I have learned to chain my dog to my desk while attending these lunches. Common sense works every time.
Gary tells us that it really does not matter whether he had perfect control of his dog on an elevator if a woman backs in to the dog's nose and screams. Of course it matters. If Gary was not controlling or paying attention to his dog, the situation might be his fault. If Gary was controlling his dog, it would be the lady's fault for not paying attention to the situation.
I think that as blind people we are conditioned to always apologize or blame ourselves if someone trips over our cane or backs in to the dog's nose or is startled by the dog when they meet us coming around a corner. We always assume that we are to blame for everything that happens. We need to learn to evaluate what happened before automatically assuming that we are to blame.
The question is, where do we go from here after kicking up all this fuss about dogs and canes? The NFB prides itself on being an organization that says what it means and means what it says. Let us assume that all of the arguments of the anti-dog faction are correct. People who use guide dogs can not hope to achieve true equality because we use an accommodation which is not acceptable to the rest of society. Dogs hurt the image not only of dog guide users but of all blind people. If the leadership is serious about this philosophy, the following steps should be taken so that blind people can achieve true equality.
All dog guide users should be expelled from the NFB. This might seem harsh, but if we are serious about achieving equality, we should not balk about taking the necessary steps toward equality.
If this first step seems too harsh, we could simply state that blind persons may not take their dogs to national conventions. Since many dog guide users are uncomfortable about traveling without their dogs, this step would lead many dog users to stay at home. Since these guide dog users have a bad philosophy anyway, keeping them away would enable model blind persons to achieve equality with their sighted peers.
If we are serious in our drive to achieve equality, we should launch a campaign to destroy guide dog schools, which prevent blind people from achieving equality and are therefore the enemies of the blind.
Current guide dog users should be instructed either to retire their dogs or not to get any more dogs. Persons who are newly blind and parents of blind children should be informed that it is harmful and inappropriate to get a guide dog since guide dog users will never achieve equality.
Following these guidelines, we would be well on our way toward implementing our philosophy and achieve equality for the blind. Perhaps there are other steps which I have not thought of. If so, these actions should be carried out, the sooner the better.
Perhaps I am totally off base, and this was simply a rhetorical exercise allowing cane users to let the fur fly and vent their frustrations against those reprehensible guide dog users. Let us get back to basics. As the wonderful and inimitable Doctor Elizabeth Brown said, "There is no debate regarding using dogs or canes since this is a personal choice. It is our blindness which makes people uncomfortable, not whether we use a dog or a cane or sighted guide." Skilled and competent guide dog users like Professor Paul Gabias and Diane McGeorge give as much credit and respectability to blind people as skilled cane travelers such as yourself, Ramona Walhof, Peggy Elliott, or Steve Benson.
We have a great deal in common. Guide dog users listen to presidential releases and read their Braille Monitors just as cane users do. We strongly believe in the National Federation of the Blind, but you and your anti-dog cohorts are making it very difficult to keep the faith. If you want war, you can win, based on sheer numbers, but at what a price. I believe that guide dog users are seeking an accommodation, based on mutual respect and trust. I believe that this is possible, but it is up to you to provide the dynamic leadership to bring us together.
Thank you for your consideration of my remarks. Even though our disagreements are sharp and clear cut, I appreciate the opportunity to express my views to you and to other persons who are interested in this issue.
January 8, 1996 Dear:
I have your thoughtful letter postmarked December 23, 1995, and I thank you for it. As you would imagine, I disagree with some of the things you say, but many of your observations provide insight and new perspective.
When you get the January Monitor, you will see a follow-up article to the October issue. I hope you will find it constructive and worthwhile. As far as I am concerned, the purpose of the October issue was to bring the subject of mobility for the blind out of the closet and make it possible for reasoned discussion. I believe that has been accomplished.
As I state in the January Monitor, the overwhelming response to the October issue has been positive. This has been the reaction of guide-dog users as well as cane users. Having first removed the name and other identifying details, I herewith enclose a letter from a guide-dog user to Doug Elliott. You will see that this Federationist is glad that the October issue was published.
As to conventions, the problem is not simple, and I think we must continue to discuss it until we arrive at some meeting of the minds. Your attitude about the sandbox in Illinois last summer is not shared by a great many guide-dog users. Steve Benson resisted the idea of a sandbox for the dogs, feeling that the dog users could easily cross the street to Grant Park and, indeed, should do so. But so many Illinois guide-dog users protested that Steve and the National Office thought it wise to build the sandbox.
I agree that cane users and guide-dog users should treat each other with civility, not only at conventions but everywhere else--but the magnitude of the problem of dog mess in the halls, in the restaurants, in the public restrooms, and in the meeting rooms at conventions is such that it cannot be ignored. It should be dealt with rationally and respectfully--but it should be dealt with. Whether, as you do, we call what happens when a dog urinates or defecates inside the hotel a "process," or whether we call it something else, it occurs with a good deal of frequency, and we should do what we can to minimize the problem. I do not suggest that those who travel with dogs refrain from bringing their dogs to convention but only that we deal with the problem in the same way that we deal with all other problems--not with anger or an attempt to hide it but with good temper, determination, and mutual respect.
When you talk about the advantages and disadvantages of using a cane or a dog, it seems to me that you fail to make a distinction that I think is important. Disadvantages of either method of travel that primarily affect the user are essentially personal, being in the long run the individual's own business and nobody else's. Disadvantages that cause inconvenience or problems to others are something else. They are properly the concern of the people with whom we associate and of the blind community at large. From your letter it would appear that you may not be aware of the magnitude of the problem created by dogs at the convention.
I happen to feel that, on the average, dog users probably don't walk faster than cane users, but ultimately the argument is irrelevant. Whichever method of travel you use, you travel as fast or as slowly as you travel, and it is your decision to make. However, if somebody trips me with a cane or if I walk down the hall and step into the droppings of your dog, it immediately becomes my business.
I believe that tripping people with a cane is a fairly uncommon occurrence, while walking through dog droppings is not. You say in your letter (and I agree with you) that frequency is key to the discussion. If tripping with a cane were such a common occurrence that somebody (or several somebodies) got hurt because of it at every National Convention, I think it would require serious and immediate consideration and an attempt to find remedies. I think that it is not that frequent and, in fact, is quite rare. If there is evidence to the contrary, I will not be angry or hurt by having it presented or by having it publicly discussed. I would hope such discussion could occur with civility and respect, and not simply be regarded as a means of response to a supposed attack. This is all I have ever advocated in dealing with a discussion about dogs.
It seems to me that you are too defensive about the behavior of guide-dog schools. We in the Federation have publicly and repeatedly criticized cane-travel programs and cane-travel instruction. Yet I have never heard anyone say that this was the fault of guide-dog users and an attempt to denigrate the use of a cane. If a cane-travel training program had distributed to the general public a fundraising appeal of the type used by the guide-dog school featured in the October Monitor, all of us (cane users and dog users alike) would properly have objected with vehemence. I repeat that we simply have to be able to discuss any program affecting the blind (cane, dog, or anything else) and that we have to be able to do it without getting our feelings hurt or becoming angry with each other. We must defend each other to the public; we must treat each other with love and respect; but we must be able to talk about common problems with frankness and honesty.
You give considerable emphasis to the notion that one should not be restricted to using either cane or dog but may very well use both. How can anybody disagree with that? In this part of your letter you persist in taking it for granted that you are correct in your contention that, on the average, guide-dog users travel faster than cane users. My observation on this point is different from yours. However, I don't think either of these issues has much importance or much relevance to anything worth discussing since the decision is largely personal. It goes back to what I said about the two categories of advantages and disadvantages. How fast or how slowly you travel is ultimately none of my business unless it affects me--and the same is true of using a cane, a dog, both, or neither. Anything that reflects poorly or favorably on blind people or that causes problems or pleasure to me or to other blind people is properly my business. Anything that is strictly personal to somebody else is not.
As to your comments about Floyd Matson, I think you overstate and engage in the very harshness that you deplore in his article. When you say he "loathes" dogs, you are simply not telling it the way it is. I visited his home in 1968. At that time he had a dog that lived in the house, a dog that was very much loved and petted. I was there day after day. I saw it happen. Rather than deal with the substance of his arguments, you simply resort to name calling. Regardless of how good or evil he may be, and irrespective of how pure or base his motives, the substance of his arguments must be dealt with, not his character as a person.
When you say that Dr. Matson should have put down his pen when he got through listing the perceived advantages and disadvantages of a guide dog since neither cane nor dog is better, and the whole thing is simply a matter of personal choice, I respond that this is the whole point of all of this discussion. If the use of cane or dog (or, for that matter some other method of mobility) primarily affects the individual involved, you are right. It is simply a matter of personal choice, and nobody else's business. If, on the other hand, the method of mobility chosen by the blind person has a major impact on friends, associates, and other blind people, you are wrong. It is very much the business of all of us. In fact, it may be not only our right but our responsibility to consider and discuss it.
As you get into the full swing of your attack on Dr. Matson, you pick up the tempo of your emotion and tar me with the same brush. You say:
You have told us, and Doctor Matson has told us, that he has always supported the rights of guide dog users. The question is why? It should logically follow that a restaurant owner who throws a guide dog user out of his restaurant, or a cab driver who refuses to transport a dog user, is right. As you both state that the dogs may shed, drool, smell, etc., isn't there a conflict here? Under the circumstances how can you enthusiastically support a legal claim for an accommodation which you find loathsome and detestable? Do you and Doctor Matson support the rights of guide dog users for political reasons or out of the goodness of your hearts?
This is what you say, and I hope on reflection you will agree that your words are a bit intemperate. I do not find the accommodation "loathsome and detestable," nor is there any great mystery about why I support the rights of guide- dog users. The restaurant owner to whom you refer is probably acting with complex motives, some of which he doubtless does not recognize or understand. He probably has some of the common misconceptions about blindness. Nevertheless, the dog adds complications, often real and not just imagined.
You ask whether I support the Guide Dog Division because of political reasons or out of the goodness of my heart. I hope I do it for both of these reasons, and for some others as well. I feel a special bond and kinship with other blind people, a wish and a need to make common cause with them. This sometimes means wholeheartedly supporting some things that I might not support if I were the only blind person involved in the equation. If I want rapport and comradeship with my fellow blind, and if I want them wholeheartedly to support things that I may like but that they may not thoroughly agree with, I must give as well as take--and I must do it with enthusiasm and good humor. This does not mean that I should pretend to believe what I don't believe--especially when I am talking in the family (that is, in the Federation) and when I am doing it at appropriate times and places.
Early in your letter you say that we shouldn't refer to the untimely urination or defecation of a dog as an accident but as a "process." It seems to me that this kind of politically correct prissiness of terminology doesn't help matters. You can call it anything you like, but I am sure that Ruth Isaacs was not lying when she said that she saw what she saw on the carpet in the breakfast line. Whether, as you prefer, it be referred to as three or four piles of "process," or three or four piles of dog manure, it will still be objectionable to most people going through the breakfast line. The question, then, comes back to frequency. How often does it happen? On this point I suspect you and I would agree. Frequency is the operative concept. If the problem happens once in a great while, it can be brushed aside. If it happens regularly, it cannot. And it doesn't matter what excuses are given.
In your discussion of Gary Wunder's October article, where the woman in an elevator backs into Gary's dog's nose and becomes startled and upset, you say that it matters a great deal whether Gary or the woman is at fault. In one sense it does, but in another it doesn't. No, we as blind people should not be constantly apologizing or feeling inferior, but neither should we deceive ourselves with the false belief that being right is enough regardless of how others feel. We live in a tightly packed world of many people, a complex world of competing rights and give-and- take. In the long run if we as blind people intend to earn and keep real equality, we will have to do it by the general consent of the larger public--a feeling by them that we do what we say we do, that we are what we say we are, and that we deserve what we say we deserve.
In your concluding section you raise the question of where we go from here. I think you do it in the wrong context because you refer to those who may have disagreements with you as the "anti-dog faction." Unless we can get past this emotionalism and personal resentment, we cannot possibly consider this or any other problem objectively.
Let me be specific. You say that if we are serious about what you perceive to be our philosophy, we should expel all guide-dog users. I completely disagree with this, and I don't think you are serious in putting it forward. If we follow the practice of expelling every person who disagrees with us at one time or another, we will have no organization at all. On the other hand, pretending that a problem doesn't exist and hiding from it will have just about as bad a result.
If you are serious and not simply being snide or sarcastic, your perception of political reality differs radically from mine. Cane users are not, as you put it, necessarily "model blind persons"; and if you understand my October article, you know that I do not believe that the use of a cane guarantees that a person will be a "model" blind person, whatever that may be. None of us is perfect. We are a combination of our strengths and weaknesses. All we can hope for is to make ourselves better than we are and to move closer to the goals we seek. At the same time, the recognition that we are not perfect cannot be used as an excuse for refusing to discuss issues and face problems.
The final portion of your letter reaches a crescendo of name-calling. Nobody has said that guide-dog users are "reprehensible," and I think it is unrealistic to believe that the Federation is divided into what you apparently believe to be the anti- and the pro-dog factions. We are talking about something far more complex and involved than that. As to closing down the guide-dog schools, we could not do it even if we wanted to. Whatever we are, I think we are realists. Since you know this, I ask you to consider what you were trying to accomplish by the suggestion.
You say that "guide-dog users are seeking an accommodation based on mutual respect and trust." You also complain about harshness. I ask you to read again my October article and your own letter and to decide which is the more intemperate. I respect all of our members--those that use canes; those that use dogs; those that use human arms; those that use a combination of these techniques; and those that, regardless of how much they try, cannot currently travel independently at all. Specifically, I respect you--because you think, because you have integrity, and because you are a friend. Many guide-dog users have told me that they found the October issue of the Monitor constructive and helpful. I hope that you will come to see it that way too, but whether you do or not, I appreciate your letter, and I thank you for sending it to me.
Sincerely, Kenneth Jernigan
NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND
(Letter from a guide-dog user to Doug
December 3, 1995
I have read and reread your letters and the related correspondence in the October Monitor. I want to share some impressions and observations.
I will not say much about the role of the guide dog division. Thus far I have been among those who have not helped with its work.
I agree with you that the use of a guide dog has effects and that these effects are separable from those of blindness. It may be as Bill Isaacs suggests that the division has no obligation to discuss the negative effects of guide dog use. However, if the division does not generate such a discussion, then it is unlikely to happen in a systematic way.
I guess I should not be surprised that, even when there is agreement that a consequence results from using a guide dog, there is difference of opinion about whether the consequence is positive or negative. I have in mind the role of the guide dog as an ice breaker. I know this happens; I have experienced it, and I view it as definitely negative.
I share your concern with use of the term "hierarchy" as it pertains to alleged restrictions on discussion within the movement. To the extent that the term "hierarchy" means anything descriptive rather than simply pejorative, it refers to those we have elected to lead. I have not sensed any attempt by our leadership to stifle discussion on either this or other topics. I think many have been reluctant to begin this discussion because of the expectation that it will result in less unity within the Federation than is currently the case. I also think that the value of an honest, thorough discussion of these issues is worth the risk.
Thanks for your attention to this matter.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Carol Ducote]
INTERIM VICTORY IN THE DUCOTE CASE
by Scott LaBarre
From the Editor: In the February, 1994, issue of the Braille Monitor we first described the employment problems Carol Ducote was facing in Brunswick, Georgia. Director of Governmental Affairs James Gashel and then Associate Director of Governmental Affairs Scott LaBarre took an active role in resolving an un-pleasant situation in late 1993. Everyone hoped that the mess had been satisfactorily resolved and that Carol would be able to demonstrate sufficient competence at her job to put to rest any lingering doubts in the minds of her school colleagues.
But prejudice is notoriously difficult to dislodge from people's minds simply because it is not a matter of fact and proof; it resides in the emotions and feelings. School officials were apparently capable of evaluating Carol Ducote's work as satisfactory and still believing that no blind person could do the work of a school administrator effectively. Scott Labarre has continued to work on this case as it has developed through the months since our last story. Here is his latest report:
A little over two years ago the National Federation of the Blind helped to saved Carol Ducote's job as assistant principal and registrar of Brunswick High School in Brunswick, Georgia. (See the February, 1994, Braille Monitor.) In short, Carol Ducote lost her vision immediately before the beginning of the 1992-93 school year, but she continued to do her job with the help of volunteer readers. At the end of that school year she received a satisfactory performance evaluation.
Nevertheless, the Glynn County School District rejected Ms. Ducote's request for reasonable accommodations, and the Superintendent recommended that she be terminated from her position as assistant principal. It seemed obvious that neither the superintendent, Jeffrey Weaver, nor the principal of the high school, Derrick Hulsy, believed that a blind person could effectively carry out the duties of an assistant principal.
That is when the National Federation of the Blind became involved in the case. We attempted, to no avail, to negotiate with the school district's lawyers throughout the fall of 1993. Finally, on November 8, 1993, Mr. Gashel and I appeared before the Glynn County School Board to tell them that they had two choices. Either they could return Ms. Ducote to her position, or we would see them in federal court. The school board apparently got the message because they ordered the superintendent to return her to her job and further ordered that reasonable accommodations be provided.
Ms. Ducote reassumed her duties on November 15, 1993, and received yet another satisfactory performance evaluation at the end of that school year. By the way, the school district's evaluations are constructed in such a way that "satisfactory" is the highest rating an individual can receive. Derrick Hulsy left Brunswick at the end of the 93- 94 school year, and a new principal came onto the scene.
Marcia Boney took over at the high school, and Ms. Ducote immediately noticed disparate treatment. Boney began criticizing Ducote's performance as registrar even though the new principal had not been at the school long enough to understand the registration process. Moreover, every time Ms. Ducote requested permission to attend professional conferences, her requests were denied, even though other teachers and administrators were permitted to attend. Carol Ducote had chaired the committee in charge of conducting a ten-year review of the school's services. Without explanation, Boney relieved Carol of that important responsibility.
Despite this campaign of isolation, Ms. Ducote still received a satisfactory review at the end of the year, but a major surprise was waiting around the corner. Immediately before she left school for her summer leave, Ms. Ducote received a letter from the new superintendent, David Mosely. Here is the text of that letter:
June 27, 1995
Ms. Carol Ducote
St. Simons Island, Georgia
Dear Ms. Ducote:
Your 1995-96 job placement is the Risley Learning Center, effective July 27. This placement will serve to strengthen programmatic objectives at the Center. Mrs. Johnnie Heck may be contacted regarding specifics of your assignment, and she is happy to have you on her staff. Mr. Edward Counsel will be notified of the site change by the Personnel Department.
Your cooperativeness is very much appreciated. My best wishes for a happy 1995-96 school year.
David C. Mosely
That was the letter, and, coming as it did out of the blue, it was quite a shock. The Risley Learning Center is where all the worst discipline problem students are sent when their home schools can do no more with them. In other words, it is the school of last resort. Until she received that letter, no one had even mentioned the transfer to Carol, much less discussed it with her.
Mr. Gashel responded appropriately to Mr. Mosely's letter. This is what he said:
June 29, 1995
Mr. David C. Mosely
Superintendent of Schools
Glynn County Schools
Dear Mr. Mosely:
Carol Ducote has asked me to review the matter of her reassignment, which was announced to her in your letter of June 27. When I appeared before the Glynn County school board on November 8, 1993, I indicated that the National Federation of the Blind could not remain silent at a time when Ms. Ducote's employment status was in jeopardy on grounds of blindness.
At the time that I made this statement, Ms. Ducote was not permitted to report for duty. School personnel had made no secret of their concern that Carol could not continue to function as an assistant principal at Brunswick High in view of her substantial vision loss. As an alternative they had proposed a reassignment for Carol to a position which they said they would be willing to create.
Our response on behalf of Ms. Ducote was that a reassignment to a position which was not an assistant- principal position would unlawfully discriminate against her on the grounds of disability. This would be especially true since the duties of the new position had not been specified, as compared to the precise job description for an assistant principal. We pointed out that Ms. Ducote was able to perform the duties of an assistant-principal position. Therefore, removing her to a position with unspecified duties would subject her to an unwarranted degree of uncertainty.
In considering your letter of June 27, I know of nothing that would change the position which we have previously taken with respect to Ms. Ducote. As I understand it, she has in fact performed her duties at Brunswick High in a satisfactory manner. Furthermore, she has indicated her desire to continue in the assistant-principal position for the coming year. In spite of this, interviews have been held to fill her position and to reassign Ms. Ducote as stated in your letter.
For the reasons which I gave to the Glynn County school board in 1993, the present reassignment of Ms. Ducote is unacceptable to her and the National Federation of the Blind. The reassignment is essentially the same kind of action as had been proposed to us in 1993. To its credit the Board and others responsible chose not to pursue that approach after considering our position.
Ms. Ducote has authorized me to advise you that she would like to be considered for continuation in her present position. In fact, I would wonder why, in view of her performance, you would be interviewing anyone to fill this position as long as Ms. Ducote is clearly qualified and available. Therefore, please consider this letter to be her request to remain in the assistant-principal position at Brunswick High.
Ms. Ducote requests that further action to fill the Brunswick High position by any individual other than herself not be taken and that she be informed of the procedures to be followed in considering her requests. Communications concerning these requests may be directed to me.
Very truly yours,
Director of Governmental Affairs
National Federation of the Blind
Mr. Gashel's letter clearly requested a formal response, but the School District never responded to it. That is when I became involved in the case. We contacted the District's lawyers, but the School District refused to change its position on the transfer. We were left with no choice but to file a lawsuit in Federal District Court. We then contacted Jon Bumgartner, a lawyer in Brunswick, to serve as local counsel in this matter. Here is the complaint which we filed:
IN THE UNITED STATES
FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF GEORGIA
Carol Ducote, Plaintiff
Glynn County School System
Glynn County School District, and/or
Glynn County Board of Education, Defendant.
Civil Action No: CV295-113
COMPLAINT FOR EMPLOYMENT DISCRIMINATION
Rehabilitation Act of 1973
(1) Plaintiff, Carol Ducote, is an individual with a disability and resides in St. Simon's Island, Georgia.
(2) Defendants Glynn County School System, and/or Glynn County School District, and/or Glynn County Board of Education (hereinafter collectively referred to as the "School System") operate a public school district serving Glynn County, Georgia. The School System receives direct federal funding to carry out a number of its educational programs. The operations of the School System constitute a "program or activity" within the meaning of 29 U.S.C. 794.
(3) Plaintiff seeks redress for discrimination based on her disability, legal blindness, suffered by her in violation of the law of the United States in her capacity as an employee of the School System.
(4) Specifically plaintiff alleges that she has been demoted to an inferior position on June 27, 1995, in the School System because of her disability and that during the term of her employment plaintiff has not enjoyed the same benefits, terms, and conditions of employment as other similarly situated employees due to her disability.
(5) Plaintiff seeks an award including reassignment to her original position as Assistant Principal at Brunswick High School, injunctive relief, damages for pain and suffering, all compensatory damages, and reasonable attorneys' fees.
(6) Plaintiff includes herein by reference all of the foregoing allegations.
(7) This suit is brought and jurisdiction lies pursuant to Title V of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. Sec. 701 et seq. and 42 U.S.C. 1983. This Court has jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 1331, and the Court has supplementary jurisdiction for all claims arising under Georgia law pursuant to 28 U.S.C. Sec. 1367.
(8) All conditions precedent to this suit have been met, to wit this action is taken within 180 days of the relevant acts of discrimination suffered by plaintiff.
(9) All actions of discrimination alleged herein have taken place within the state of Georgia. Defendants are subject to the jurisdiction of this Court, and venue is proper in this forum.
FIRST CLAIM FOR RELIEF
(10) Plaintiff incorporates herein by reference all foregoing allegations.
(11) In August of 1985 plaintiff was employed by the School System as a classroom teacher. Two years later the School System promoted her to Assistant Principal at Brunswick High School. Until June 27, 1995, she served as the main registrar, developed the curriculum, administered discipline, conducted teacher evaluations, and carried out all other associated duties of an assistant principal. Throughout this period her performance reviews have been at worst satisfactory, and plaintiff has often received praise and commendations for her work.
(12) In 1987 plaintiff suffered a severe reaction known as Stephen Johnson's Syndrome to a legal drug which caused her legal blindness. Said reaction caused lingering effects throughout the years which eventually led to her total blindness in 1992. Despite this medical setback, plaintiff returned to her position and continued to perform her duties. Even though it had knowledge of plaintiff's disability, the School System did not accommodate her blindness. At the end of the 1992-93 school year, her performance was again evaluated, and she received a satisfactory review even though virtually no accommodations had been provided to assist her in adjusting to her disability.
(13) In August of 1993 School System officials summoned plaintiff for a meeting. At said meeting officials informed plaintiff that she could not perform her job duties adequately because of her blindness. Said officials issued an ultimatum that either plaintiff retire on disability or she would be terminated. Plaintiff refused to accept the disability offer, and on or about August 25, 1993, she received a letter from the superintendent informing her that she had been placed on administrative leave until the time that the school board could officially terminate her employment.
(14) Plaintiff then contacted officials of the National Federation of the Blind, hereafter NFB, and said officials intervened on plaintiff's behalf. The School System did not terminate plaintiff's employment but did not allow her to return to her position. School System officials proposed that a new counseling position be created for plaintiff in another school, a position with no job security and no discernible job description. Both the NFB and plaintiff rejected said proposal and persisted in requesting a return to the original position. On November 8, 1993, officials of the NFB attended a school board meeting, where the employment status of plaintiff was thoroughly discussed. After said discussion the board voted to return plaintiff to her job and further authorized the School System to provide appropriate accommodations. The School System provided said accommodations, and plaintiff continued to achieve success at the school. Plaintiff received a satisfactory evaluation at the end of the 1993-94 school year. Conditions seemed favorable for plaintiff until the 1994-1995 school year.
(15) A new principal, Ms. Marcia Boney, was assigned to Brunswick High School for the 1994-95 school year. On several different occasions, plaintiff has not been treated in the same manner as other employees who are similarly situated. Most apparent is the fact that Ms. Boney refused even to talk to plaintiff except when absolutely necessary. One of plaintiff's job duties was to maintain discipline at Brunswick High School. Plaintiff requested administrative leave so that she could attend a one-day conference on disciplinary techniques for school officials in Savannah. Plaintiff's request was denied for no apparent reason. When pressed, the principal of Brunswick High, Marcia Boney, stated that normally administrators had to conduct a workshop on the subjects covered at conferences, and said principal further stated that she did not desire a workshop to be conducted on the topic covered at the conference. The principal did, however, receive requests from other staff and faculty to attend said conference. All of those requests were granted, mostly because Ms. Boney could not find a sufficient number of school personnel to attend the meeting. Despite these facts, she flatly rejected plaintiff's request, even though attendance at said conference was directly relevant to and appropriate for plaintiff's job.
(16) At the beginning of plaintiff's tenure as Assistant Principal she had been placed in charge of a committee that drafted and then implemented a thorough evaluation of services and a ten-year plan for the school. Said plan called for an intermediate review after five years. During the 1993-1994 school year, plaintiff began preparations for said review and began to appoint committees and to organize efforts for the oncoming school year. In the fall of 1994 Ms. Boney stripped plaintiff of all responsibilities and turned them over to individuals who were not administrators and who did not possess plaintiff's experience with the plan.
(17) Plaintiff requested to attend the Georgia Technology Conference because sessions were offered regarding technological advances in planning curricula and taking registration. Thirteen other school employees were granted permission to attend said conference, but plaintiff's request was denied despite the fact that plaintiff's attendance at the conference would have been greatly beneficial to the performance of her job.
(18) Plaintiff scheduled an appreciation night for the faculty of the high school. In the past it had been plaintiff's responsibility to arrange such an activity for the teachers. Ms. Boney unilaterally canceled said event even though similar events planned by other individuals had been permitted to occur.
(19) The allegations contained in paragraphs thirteen through eighteen are emblematic of disparate treatment based on blindness suffered by plaintiff at the hands of the School System. These incidents and others have led to the isolation of plaintiff from her colleagues and have impeded her professional growth. The only pertinent factor distinguishing plaintiff from other similarly situated school employees is her blindness. The School System has not articulated any legitimate reasons for denying Plaintiff's requests.
SECOND CLAIM FOR RELIEF
(20) Plaintiff incorporates by reference all foregoing allegations.
(21) On June 27, 1995, plaintiff received notice that she was being transferred to the Risley Learning Center. The notice did not even state to which position she was being transferred. The notice simply stated that she had been transferred to strengthen programmatic objectives at the Center. The School System never consulted with Plaintiff on this transfer and never afforded her the opportunity to apply for other positions. The School System never discussed the transfer with plaintiff even though she had indicated her interest in maintaining her position as the Assistant Principal and Registrar at Brunswick High.
(22) The School System apparently slightly restructured certain administrative positions at the System's two full- service high schools, Brunswick High and the Glynn Academy. At both schools the Associate-Principal position was eliminated. Before said elimination the principal, two assistant principals, an associate principal, and a vocational supervisor comprised the chief administrative team at both schools. The former Associate Principal at the Glynn Academy did not receive a reassignment because said individual retired from the School System. The Associate Principal at Brunswick received an offer to fill an assistant-principal position at the school. The School System never offered plaintiff any of these administrative positions. Instead the School System advertised for the assistant-principal positions at Brunswick High. Said positions are still unfilled at Brunswick High. The two assistant principals at Glynn Academy have not been transferred, and their positions have not been threatened.
(23) The position to which plaintiff has been transferred has not existed heretofore. From Plaintiff's understanding, it is a counseling position with undefined and vague objectives. During the period of plaintiff's employment, no one has ever been involuntarily transferred to a position at the learning center after they have held an administrative position at one of the School System's two main high schools. The position for which plaintiff is slated is not regarded as an administrative position because normally a counseling position is considered to be part of the regular staff at a school. Additionally involuntary transfers to the Risley Learning Center have commonly been viewed as demotions. Again the only pertinent characteristic which distinguishes plaintiff from others who are similarly situated is blindness. None of the other administrators has been singled out for such a demotion.
WHEREFORE plaintiff prays that this court find and hold that:
(1) Plaintiff has suffered from acts of discrimination based on her disability;
(2) Plaintiff be awarded immediate restoration to her former position with all the benefits, monetary compensation, and accommodations due her;
(3) The School System be preliminarily and permanently enjoined from filling the assistant-principal positions until plaintiff has been properly restored to her former position;
(4) Plaintiff be awarded all compensatory damages accrued as a result of defendant's systematic discrimination against her;
(5) Plaintiff be awarded appropriate damages for the severe humiliation, pain, and suffering which plaintiff has endured as a result of defendant's discrimination;
(6) Plaintiff be awarded all reasonable attorneys' fees, cost, and disbursements associated with this action; and
(7) This court grant whatever other relief and awards as justice so requires.
RESPECTFULLY SUBMITTED this 28th_____ day of , 1995.
WHELCHEL, BROWN, READDICK, AND BUMGARTNER
by John E. Bumgartner
Georgia Bar No: 094600
by Richard K. Strickland
Georgia Bar No: 687830
NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND
by Scott C. LaBarre, Esquire
Colorado Bar No: 025495
Attorneys for Plaintiff
A great deal has happened since we filed that complaint. We have conducted approximately fifteen depositions, endured various rounds of negotiation, and demanded the production of hundreds of documents. We were originally set to go to trial on November 6, but, as you will see, Judge Alaimo, the federal judge assigned to this case, postponed the trial.
As our Complaint alleges, we contend that Carol Ducote's transfer was in fact a demotion. Everything that we have learned has confirmed this original contention. At Brunswick High Ms. Ducote ran registration for a high school of 1500 students; developed the curriculum; administered discipline; evaluated teachers; supervised school events like football games, dances, and the like; and chaired various committees. In other words, she had a complex and challenging job--one which truly tested her professional abilities.
The same cannot be said for Ms. Ducote's new position at the Risley Learning Center. When she first reported to the position in late July, she had virtually no duties to fulfill. She spent the vast majority of her days practicing her Braille and becoming more familiar with her speech software. These are certainly laudable activities, but they are not what Carol Ducote had been hired to do. When the school year began in late August, she acquired some additional duties. Namely, she has been assigned to disciplining the challenging students sent to the Center. Discipline has been her only real job duty. She does a good job at it, but she says that she feels like nothing more than a highly paid baby-sitter. When one compares her duties at Brunswick to those at Risley, one can understand why she feels that way. Nevertheless, the School District continues to maintain that her job transfer was lateral.
The depositions of various school personnel have revealed many major inconsistencies. For example, the superintendent, David Mosely, claims that he transferred Ms. Ducote because the Principal at Brunswick requested it. The Principal claims under oath that she had nothing to do with the transfer and that it was entirely the decision of the superintendent.
In her deposition, Marcia Boney, the principal, alleged that registration at the high school had become a monumental problem and that it was primarily Carol Ducote's fault. Almost all other school employees interviewed have said that registration was no different from other years. They claim that registration is always a pain in the neck because there are always teachers and students who are unhappy with their assignments. These employees further stated that Carol Ducote ran registration as well as it could be run and that she had always tried to find new ways to improve the process.
In the deposition of Derrick Hulsy, Ms. Ducote's former principal, Mr. Hulsy admitted that he had never believed that Carol Ducote could do the job as a blind person. He stated that he still was not convinced even after the School Board ordered that she be returned to her position. Mr. Hulsy's main problem with Ms. Ducote's return was that he did not believe that a blind person could safely supervise and monitor large gatherings of students. Allen Harris, Treasurer of the National Federation of the Blind and a prominent school teacher in Michigan, visited Brunswick High several times in an attempt to explain to Mr. Hulsy how blind educators could get the job done. Unfortunately Mr. Hulsy remained unconvinced that a blind person could fulfill the duties of an assistant principal.
The depositions of David Mosely and Marcia Boney revealed that Derrick Hulsy had discussed the 1993 events surrounding Carol Ducote's employment situation with them. It is hard to believe that the 1993 events did not affect Boney's and Mosely's decision to transfer her.
The main problem for us in this case has been that the School District has become considerably more sophisticated in the way in which it has carried out its discriminatory actions. In 1993 there was no doubt that the District wanted to terminate Ms. Ducote because of her blindness. We had the classic smoking gun. In fact, there were all kinds of smoking guns lying on the battlefield. That has not been the case during the events of 1995.
The way in which Carol Ducote was transferred smacks most obviously of discrimination. Before Carol received the letter from David Mosely on June 27, no one had ever discussed the transfer with her; yet school officials continue to claim that the job to which she was transferred was almost perfectly tailored for her abilities. One school official, under oath at his deposition, even went as far as to say that the transfer was a promotion. If this is all true and if Carol Ducote is a valued employee as the school officials claim, why did no one discuss this alleged promotion with her?
As our Complaint argues, Brunswick High advertised for new assistant principals. Applications were accepted between June 12 and June 25. Remember that Ms. Ducote received her letter of transfer on June 27. She had been told that the School District was advertising for only one position. Therefore, she believed that her job was still safe. When she received her letter of transfer, she no longer had any opportunity to be considered for one of the assistant- principal positions.
Even though we have no smoking gun in this case, the weight of the evidence points to an illegal motive on the part of the School District. Throughout October we discussed settlement with the School District. We attempted to be as flexible as we could. For example, Ms. Ducote would have been willing to wait until the end of the school year to be transferred out of Risley as long as she received a guarantee that her next assignment would be a true lateral transfer. She enumerated six broad job categories that she believed to be real transfers or promotions.
Unfortunately the School District refused all of these offers. David Mosely apparently did not want to be locked into a set course of action. In dealing with opposing counsel, we received the distinct impression that the School District's lawyers wanted to settle the case; it was Mosely who provided the primary opposition to doing so.
Because of the School District's failure to settle, we had no choice but to prepare for trial on November 6. Before a trial it is common practice for the Judge to hold a pre- trial conference. We had such a conference with Judge Alaimo on November 2. He made it very clear to both sides that he did not want to try the case at that time. He told us that he was going to hold the matter in abeyance until the end of the school year, mostly to give the parties an opportunity to settle. The following letter to opposing counsel from Jon Bumgartner and me accurately describes what happened during the pre-trial conference. Here it is:
November 2, 1995
Phillip L. Hartley, Esq.
HARBIN & HARTLY
James A. Bishop, Esquire
RE: Carol Ducote v. Glynn County School System, et al, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Georgia, Civil Action No: CV295-113
Dear Phil and Jim: As you know, we conducted a pre-trial and settlement conference with Judge Alaimo today. This letter represents our understanding of the events which transpired at today's meeting.
As you are aware, Judge Alaimo has agreed to hold this matter in abeyance until June, 1996, under the following conditions:
The Glynn County School District will consider and interview Carol Ducote for all vacant job positions that fall under the six categories of jobs which we have already enumerated. Please consider this letter as Ms. Ducote's request to be transferred from the Risley Learning Center. The following six job categories are presented in order of preference.
1. Ms. Ducote would be willing to be considered for and accept a position as assistant principal at any of the school district's high schools. Such a position would be similar to the one which Ms. Ducote held at Brunswick High School from 1987 through the spring of 1995.
2. Ms. Ducote would be willing to be considered for and accept an administrative position in the school district's personnel office. This would be an administrative position housed within the school system's central office.
3. Ms. Ducote would be willing to be considered for and accept a position involving student advocacy at the central office level. It is our understanding that various personnel within the school district help to coordinate and administer student advocacy programs. For example, certain individuals serve as hearing officers for students when they appeal their suspensions, expulsions, or other adverse decisions. Ms. Ducote would be willing to administer and coordinate these programs.
4. Ms. Ducote would be willing to be considered for and accept a position as either principal or assistant principal of an elementary school. This job position should not require any additional description.
5. Ms. Ducote would be willing to be considered for and accept a position as either principal or assistant principal of a middle school. This job position should not require any additional description.
6. Ms. Ducote would be willing to be considered for and accept a position as curriculum coordinator. Currently there are curriculum coordinators who oversee curriculum for the school district's high schools and elementary schools. Currently Linda Wright and Kathy O'Keefe fill this type of position.
It is our understanding that, if vacancies come up in any of these positions which we have enumerated, the school district will consider and interview Ms. Ducote for such positions. Announcements of all such openings and vacancies should be sent directly to Ms. Ducote so that she can review such openings with her reader. A copy of the same should also be sent to Ms. Ducote's attorneys.
If the school district does fill one of these vacancies with Ms. Ducote, we will consider such an action as a settlement of this litigation, pending the resolution of our claim for reasonable attorneys' fees. Our notion of a reasonable settlement for attorneys' fees is the same one which we discussed in detail last week. If the school district does not settle this matter under the terms which are discussed in this letter, we will plan to litigate this matter during the month of June, 1996.
Thank you very much for your attention to this matter. Please let us know immediately if you disagree in any way with our summary of the events of November 2, 1995.
John E. Bumgartner
Scott C. LaBarre
cc: Honorable Anthony A. Alaimo
There you have the text of the letter. We determined that within the six broad categories discussed, there are approximately twenty-five positions in the School District. Given normal events, there is very little doubt that some of those positions will become vacant before the 1995-1996 school year. Therefore, the School District will have to consider Carol Ducote for those positions. If she is considered and later denied, we will only have further evidence that the School District is unlawfully discriminating.
Clearly we still have a gun pointed at the School District's head, and the longer School officials take to settle the matter, the more ammunition we will have stockpiled. Therefore, if the matter does go to trial in June, we will be in an even stronger strategic position.
When we first became involved in this case, we hoped that we would find a quick solution to the matter. Unfortunately that has not happened. But we in the Federation are patient. When people are discriminated against based on blindness, we will stand behind them until the matter is favorably resolved. Carol Ducote is a bright, competent school administrator, and after thirty-three years in education she does not deserve the treatment given to her by the School District. She never received this kind of treatment until she became blind.
Carol Ducote is now a committed member of the National Federation of the Blind. She has realized the value of collective action. Without our help she would have been virtually defenseless against the School District. With our help there is very little doubt that we will prevail. Although the Federation is a complex and dynamic organization, one of its fundamental principles is easy to understand: we are far stronger together than any one of us is acting alone. Only through collective action will we become first-class citizens in our society. Carol Ducote's case is yet another example of the truth that collectively we are changing what it means to be blind.
[PHOTO: Homer Page is seated outdoors on a set of stairs with his grandson Elliot and his granddaughter Kelsie in his lap. CAPTION: Homer Page with grandson Elliot and granddaughter Kelsie.]
HIS ACHIEVEMENTS OUTGOING
COMMISSIONER PAGE ASSESSES TENURE
by Emily Narvaes
From the Editor: The following article is reprinted from the August 27, 1995, edition of the Boulder, Colorado, Daily Camera. It is a tribute to Dr. Homer Page, Past President of the National Federation of the Blind of Colorado and new Executive Director of the Colorado Center for the Blind. Here it is:
Pictures of old, weathered farmers on tractors and bright, smiling faces of children greet visitors to this otherwise dark office in the County Courthouse.
Other revealing items surrounding the room's occupant: a baseball still in its plastic cover, a huge gavel in the window, white paper covered with nothing but tiny bumps strewn across the desk, a colorful map made out of felt, tinfoil, and beads.
County Commissioner Homer Page can't see the black-and- white pictures on the stark wall, but they tell his story to anyone who takes the time to ask about them: the farming photos are reminiscent of childhood days spent on a farm in Missouri, the pictures of kids are of his two grandchildren- -four-year-old Elliot and seventeen-month-old Kelsie, for whom he has great hopes.
"It's the past and the future," says Page, fifty-three, who is blind. "It's where I came from and where I'm going." After twenty-one years working as a public servant and an advocate for people with disabilities, Page is stepping down from his seven-year post in the courthouse and moving to Denver. His last day is Tuesday, when he will leave for a new job as director of the Colorado Center for the Blind, a training center he co-founded. Page would have been up for re-election next year.
As a political mover and shaker, Page has been viewed as compassionate and sometimes unwavering in his efforts to manage growth, improve air quality and traffic congestion, support human services, and preserve open space. At times firm positions to protect his vision of the quality of life in Boulder County have brought opponents out of the woodwork.
But aside from his local politics, Page is also famous around the state and the country for his work to convince people who are blind and disabled that they can have meaningful, productive lives. As the county's first blind politician, Page has fought some personal battles, including leading a protest against a TV station for broadcasting a program that poked fun at people who are disabled.
He is the former director of the Office of Services to Disabled Students at the University of Colorado and helped create the Center for People with Disabilities in Boulder.
"I really feel that I was able to help change the lives of some people," Page said of his work at CU. "My students are around here doing great things, and I think I had something to do with that."
His roles in the private and public sector fit well together, Page believes.
"I would like to think of myself as a person who understands the relationship between humankind and the environment and that, if we don't love the land, the water, the air, and the animals that inhabit them, we won't do a very good job loving people either."
People he's worked with at the county over the years say Page has a deep understanding of human needs, and they'll miss his contributions.
"The Board will lose its biggest baseball enthusiast," said a smiling Ron Stewart, a county commissioner who was elected before Page. Sobering, he added, "Homer has really been a delight to work with. He has lots of experience as well as points of reference in his life that enable him to bring a lot to the job."
On a personal level, Stewart said he appreciated knowing exactly where Page stood on issues, even when they disagreed.
"When Homer's happy, it's a pretty transparent thing," Stewart said. "There's a look on his face that (says) he has found the key and is about to put it on the table."
Page admits he's got nothing to hide, even now as he's stepping out of public life. After serving on the Boulder City Council for seven years, three as mayor, and being elected in 1988 and again in 1992 as a commissioner, Page said he's always been forthright.
"I've never been the kind of person that (says), `Well, if I weren't a county commissioner, I would really tell you what I think,'" he said. "I've pretty much told people what I thought anyway."
That has been a painful lesson for some residents who, over the years, have disagreed with the direction the county has taken.
"I think Homer masqueraded as a Democrat, but he's really a Socialist," said Rocky Haight, whose group, Boulder County Concerned Citizens, has fought the commissioners on land-use issues. "I'm a very conservative person, so I guess it's not a surprise that we've had some conflicts. I just hope we don't get anybody further to the left.
"The surprise to Homer is that not everybody in Boulder County is a flaming liberal," he added. "I don't think he understands that. Homer was about as far left as anybody."
Haight, who fears he'll lose his private property rights because of county land-use policies, charged that he couldn't get Page to compromise: "It was his way or no way." But colleagues who worked with Page respected him, even when they differed.
"People probably don't realize what it's like to be on a three-member board," said County Treasurer Sandy Hume, a Republican who, as a former county commissioner, was sometimes the one dissenting vote on what was an otherwise Democratic board.
"It's very claustrophobic--you're with the same people day in and day out on all sorts of issues," he said. "But Homer has been wonderful to work with. Time and time again, Homer would be able to make extremely clear judgments on what he thought Boulder County could do for people that were disadvantaged and really had a pretty sharp eye to keep budgets conservative.
"All in all, I think he was a remarkable public servant, and I was privileged to work with him."
Page said his exit from politics will give him time to be in the advocacy role that he enjoys so much. But he'll also take more time to do the things his public roles have kept him from: writing, going to plays and concerts, and spending more time with his daughter Angie and son-in-law Scott Jeffords and their children in Boulder.
As he leaves Boulder County, Page is still concerned about the mudslinging that seems to be on the rise in the community these days.
"I think people ought to listen to one another and treat one another with respect," he said. "While I wouldn't claim that I haven't fallen in the ditch on occasion, that's something I've tried to keep uppermost in my mind and tried to do the best I could to live that way.
"I feel a lot of good solid achievement," said a thoughtful Page, sitting back in his chair in the courthouse. "A lot of closure. I have gotten a lot of kindness and generosity from the people in Boulder County."
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Dr. Nell Carney.]
AT THE REHABILITATION CENTER
IN NORTHERN MISSISSIPPI
by Kenneth Jernigan
In 1993 there were three NAC (National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving the Blind and Visually Handicapped)- accredited agencies giving services to blind persons in the State of Mississippi. These were the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation for the Blind of the Mississippi Department of Rehabilitation Services, Royal Maid Association for the Blind, and the Regional Rehabilitation Center of Tupelo. Royal Maid and the State Rehabilitation Agency have since dropped NAC accreditation. This leaves the Regional Rehabilitation Center of Tupelo, and to no one's surprise it is now in the midst of a public controversy--with charges being made of poor service, mismanagement, and neglect of clients. With NAC's reputation and history it would be noteworthy if it were otherwise.
Even though a state legislator--Steve Holland, who is on the House Appropriations Committee--is on this agency's board, it receives state funding, and has done so for many years. When former federal Rehabilitation Commissioner Nell Carney came to Mississippi in 1993 to take charge of the State's Department of Rehabilitation, she began to ask questions and demand accountability. One of the programs that came under scrutiny was the Tupelo facility. Of course, Legislator Holland resisted and resented. Under date of November 10, 1995, the following article appeared in the Jackson, Mississippi, Clarion-Ledger:
Tupelo rehabilitation center criticized for `no accountability'--Local officials say state director is the problem and want her fired.
by Jerry Mitchell
The Regional Rehabilitation Center of Tupelo has drawn fire from state officials for excessive costs and inferior services, according to documents obtained by the Clarion- Ledger.
The center's board includes state Rep. Steve Holland, D-Plantersville, who has served in the Legislature since 1984.
"Basically, there was no accountability," said Nell C. Carney, executive director of the state Department of Rehabilitation Services since 1993.
Investigative reports, which have resulted in a change in federal funding, claim the not-for-profit Tupelo organization:
* Paid $38,869 a year to a job placement
counselor, who placed only five clients in jobs in two years.
* Paid excessive annual costs for housekeeping ($7,230), bookkeeping ($14,307), and floor space ($8.23 per square foot).
* Provided services that were deemed "unacceptable" in quality by rehabilitation officials.
* Treated no more than six visually impaired clients at one time and sometimes zero.
* Had clients shell peas at the home of the then- director, John A. Rasberry Sr.
Center officials said the allegations are either unfounded or misleading. For example, they say the counselor was a twenty-seven-year state worker. They say they have treated up to seventeen clients at one time through the Rehabilitation Services for the Blind, which is part of the rehabilitation department.
The Tupelo center, which is negotiating a new state contract, has an annual budget of about $560,000. Half comes from city and county governments. United Way chapters pay about $38,000. Through fiscal 1995, an average of more than $300,000 came from federal funds. Mississippi helped provide the matching funds.
Holland said the Tupelo facility deserves applause, not criticism, for providing free therapy to disabled residents since 1955. In 1994 the center, along with the Rehabilitation Services for the Blind, provided services to more than 1,908 individuals in forty-two counties, officials say.
"Services for the blind are needed in north Mississippi," Holland said. "They cannot go to Jackson and get services 180 miles away."
While the center had "probably gotten a little lax in managing . . . and accountability," he said, "who can do better?"
More important, since serving on the board beginning in 1973, he said, "we haven't had any money missing."
With regard to the allegation about clients shelling peas, Holland said he never saw such a thing occur. "I heard those allegations," he said. "I can't verify it." Rasberry denied the claim. "Oh, Lord, no," he said.
The shortage of clients stems from the fact the state has not referred them, said Rasberry, who directed the center for four decades before retiring in September.
Those accusations are not the only controversy surrounding the center. Holland serves on both the board and the House Appropriations Committee, which approved $40,000 for the center last year.
Mississippi law bars lawmakers from serving on a business board that contracts with the state. Violation carries possible fines and expulsion from the Legislature.
Asked about the possible conflict, Holland replied, "I've never even thought about it. . . . We're not a state agency; we're a vendor."
He added he has no plans to resign from the board. "I'm not going to lay down and play dead just because we get a grant," he said.
Holland started serving on the board at age nineteen, a few years removed from when he began raising money for the center as a Boy Scout.
It's a job he has performed free of charge. In fact, he has continually donated to the center each year, he said. "The Lord has blessed me with involvement in the program." In 1955 Tupelo officials used a church's nursery to begin its free aid for the disabled.
Seven years later workers constructed the Regional Rehabilitation Center in Tupelo. Half the money came from federal funds, the rest from the community.
In the years that followed the center began to receive four-to-one federal matching funds for its services.
In January, 1993, Carney came to Jackson from Washington, where she had served under President Bush as U.S. Commissioner of Rehabilitation Services.
She inherited a state agency criticized by the Office of the Inspector General for "misused funds and lack of emphasis on client services."
She explained: "When I came, there was no focus on client services. We have since reduced the administrative costs by 35 percent. Most of that went for salaries and travel. The focus on client services was just not here."
One item brought to her attention was a question regarding the legality of the center's contract because public monies cannot aid a private business.
The rehabilitation center funneled its money through the city of Tupelo to get around federal prohibitions, Carney said. "It was clearly an attempt to circumvent the regulations."
Rasberry said no deception was involved. In fact, federal and state officials suggested the arrangement years ago, he said.
In 1994 Carney required the center to change to a fee- for-service contract. "Serious issues about the quality of services, accountability, and general ability of the center to provide acceptable services to clients of the department have prevailed," wrote Carney, inducted in October into the National Hall of Fame for Persons with Disabilities.
Not everyone, however, has been pleased with her approach.
"I think Dr. Carney's got some redeemable qualities as far as knowing Rehabilitation Services, but she's a piranha as far as her style," said Holland, who has complained to Gov. Kirk Fordice.
The upcoming legislative session could prove to be a political showdown between Carney and Holland, who wants Carney fired.
"I don't think she's bringing any credibility to the Mississippi Department of Rehabilitation Services, and I want her gone," he said. "She doesn't deserve to be in our good state."
He claimed that Carney has fired or transferred many qualified workers at the department. "If you say, `Good morning,' improperly, you're gone," Holland said.
The three criticisms Rasberry said he has heard from rehabilitation officials concern the quality of the Tupelo center's services, lack of population, and lack of accountability.
If the center was so horrible, Rasberry asked, why does Carney want to continue the program?
"I hate she feels that way," he said. "It's going to hurt the Regional Rehabilitation Center because the public may not understand.
"We want to cooperate with everybody. We've been doing this for thirty-eight years and never had a minute's trouble under the different directors until she came in."
That is what the article in the Clarion-Ledger says, and the scenario is not unfamiliar to those who have followed the story of NAC-accredited agencies through the years. In 1992 there was apparently a major fire at the Rehabilitation Center. The report in the Tupelo Daily Journal of July 8, 1993, makes it clear that supervision at the Rehabilitation Center was, to say the least, relaxed. The Journal says that a security officer, Anthony Rogers, at a nearby medical facility saw smoke billowing from the area of the Rehabilitation Center at about 1:00 on the morning of June 10, 1992, and that he went to investigate. "Once there," the Journal reports:
. . . he pounded on the door of the building's east side dormitory, waking up one of the residents.
"I pounded on the door, and a blind lady came to the door," Rogers said.
He escorted the woman outside, then went back in and combed the building for other residents. He assisted seven other residents in leaving the smoke-filled building.
The fire department arrived on the scene and began to battle the blaze.
Still feeling uneasy, Rogers said he decided to go back into the building, which was on fire by now, for a final look.
"Something just kept telling me to go back in and make another check," he remembers.
After going back in, he found a man still in the bed asleep. Rogers went over and started shaking him awake.
"I kept saying,`The building's on fire, we need to leave,'" Rogers said. "But he just kept looking at me."
Finally, Rogers was able to lead the man, who was hearing- impaired, to safety outside.
This is what the Journal reports, and one is left with questions. How can this failure of Rehabilitation Center officials to respond be explained? Sources tell us that the dormitory supervisor was the brother of Center Director John (nicknamed "Red") Rasberry. Of course, this may have no significance at all, but it suggests a possible informality of operation which could be relevant. We are told that dorm supervisor Rasberry was asleep in his room and had to be waked up to escape from the fire.
The following letter from a parent in Blue Springs to Director Nell Carney seems worth quoting:
November 24, 1995
Our son was a client of the Rehabilitation Center in Tupelo, Mississippi, from January until December, 1992. In June of that year the Center experienced a fire. Our son came close to losing his life. He was rescued by Mr. Anthony Rogers, a security officer at the near-by North Mississippi Medical Center. Don is deaf-blind.
No one from the Rehabilitation Center notified our family of the fire. The way we found out: we were watching the evening news on the local TV station. Of course, we panicked. It was a day later. We found our son in a motel in Tupelo. My husband asked Gary Norman why he didn't call us and let us know. His reply was, "I did not think it was necessary. I had more important things to do." We were treated as though it was none of our business. Everything was kept very quiet. Not much news in the local paper. I kept searching for information. Finally, about three months later, I found this article in the Daily Journal. Now I know what happened, but where was the paid employee that was on duty that night?
The blind people of North Mississippi need a beautiful place to learn--a safe place, and a caring place. Thank you for your work.
In an interview Dr. Carney told the Monitor that she has established a facility in Tupelo which is giving services to the blind of Northern Mississippi. It is doubtful that Legislator Holland will be content to leave matters as they now stand. He has the power of his position as a Legislator, and he has the further power of being on the Appropriations Committee.
OF THE NATIONAL LITERARY
BRAILLE COMPETENCY TEST
From the Editor: We recently received the following report from the National Library Service. What happens in the validation process of the Literary Braille Competency Test is of vital importance to all blind people. Here is the NLS update:
The National Literary Braille Competency Test (NLBCT) was developed by the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped in collaboration with leading organizations promoting the use of Braille. It is intended primarily to allow teachers of blind children and adults to demonstrate a basic knowledge of Braille. The test has been in use since May 1994.
Plans are underway to conduct a validation study of the test beginning in the spring of 1996. A statement of work is in process, and a solicitation for bids to do the study was made in December, with the contract to be awarded in March. The study is expected to take two years. First a validation study of the overall test will be done, including a job analysis and an assessment of the conditions under which the test is administered. In the job analysis teachers, supervisors, and subject-matter experts in the teaching of Braille to children and adults will examine the task of teaching Braille. The information that comes from this analysis will be compared with the current test and recommendations made, if indicated, to make changes in the content of the test. Conditions of administration that may be looked at include organization of the test, number and order of parts, time frame, use of reference materials, special accommodations for low-vision candidates, and test/re-test interval. The validation study will be followed by a reliability study, including an item analysis of the four versions of the test as modified by the validation study.
Through September, 1995, 224 tests were taken with forty-six candidates (20.5 percent) passing. Of these tests, 171 were taken using the print edition, with twenty-four candidates (14 percent) passing, and fifty-three were taken using the Braille edition, with twenty-two candidates (41.5 percent) passing. Twenty-six states have been represented among the candidates.
For additional information about the NLBCT, contact the Braille Development Section, National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, The Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. 20542, or call (800) 424-8567 and ask for Mary Lou Stark.
Here is the list of twenty-six states, together with their participation data as represented in this update:
Alaska, 3 print taken, 1 passed; Arkansas, 1 print taken, 1 passed; California, 1 print taken, 1 Braille taken, 0 passed; Connecticut, 1 Braille taken, 0 passed; District of Columbia, 3 Braille taken, 1 passed; Florida, 3 Braille taken, 0 passed; Georgia, 1 Braille taken, 1 passed; Idaho, 2 Braille taken, 0 passed; Illinois, 12 print taken, 2 passed; Louisiana, 2 print taken, 0 passed, 1 Braille taken, 1 passed; Maine, 6 print taken, 4 passed, 1 Braille taken, 0 passed; Maryland, 4 Braille taken, 2 passed; Massachusetts, 5 print taken, 3 passed, 2 Braille taken, 1 passed; Michigan, 24 print taken, 6 passed, 1 Braille taken, 1 passed; Missouri, 1 print taken, 1 passed, 7 Braille taken, 2 passed; Nebraska, 1 Braille taken, 0 passed; New York, 1 Braille taken, 1 passed; Ohio, 1 Braille taken, 1 passed; Oklahoma, 1 Braille taken, 0 passed; Oregon, 5 print taken, 4 passed; Pennsylvania, 2 Braille taken, 0 passed; Tennessee, 2 Braille taken, 0 passed; Texas, 104 print taken, 1 passed, 4 Braille taken, 3 passed; Virginia, 1 print taken, 0 passed, 7 Braille taken, 6 passed; West Virginia, 1 print taken, 0 passed, 1 Braille taken, 1 passed; and Wisconsin, 5 print taken, 2 passed, 5 Braille taken, 1 passed.
EIGHTY ISN'T OLD
by Polly Weedman
From the Editor: Every time you turn around there is another article in a newspaper or magazine warning that the number of older Americans with serious eye disorders is steeply rising. The following story first appeared in the Summer, 1995, issue of Insight, the publication of the National Federation of the Blind of South Dakota. Polly Weedman has been an active member of the South Dakota affiliate for five years. She and her husband George moved to Naples, Florida, last summer. Polly's story should inspire many older people. Here is what she has to say:
It wasn't long after my birth of English parentage on the eastern prairies of South Dakota that my grandfather ignored my birth name of "Olive Annie" and called me "Polly Anna," a nickname I have retained all my life. He perceived that even as a toddler I saw the world through rose-colored glasses.
My childhood was spent in Madison, South Dakota, with my parents, two sisters, and brother. We were all competitive individuals with highly developed talents. Our father was a busy physician/surgeon and our mother, a graduate of Northwestern University, Chicago, Illinois, had her own successful career as a dramatic reader. She presented programs at colleges, churches, and various schools, booked by the Eastern Lyceum Bureau.
She demanded excellence from her children and established our life's philosophy consciously and subconsciously. "Nothing is impossible; do better than your very best; be prepared to make sacrifices to meet your goal, and you will succeed." My brother followed in his father's footsteps and became a doctor; one of my sisters specialized in education for the mentally gifted and handicapped, working in cooperation with Stanford University in Palo Alto, California; and my younger sister is nationally known for her work as a painter and printmaker and has received many awards for her work. At the age of seventy-six, she opened her own art studio in the town in which she is emerita professor of art at the local university.
Each decade of my life has held its unique challenges, heartbreaks, and victories. I was graduated from the University of Iowa with a triple major: theater, speech therapy, and psychology. After a brief but exciting career working for Harry Reasoner, Sr., as a talent agent for Northwest Assemblies in Minneapolis, I married my college sweetheart George from South Dakota.
Since there was no speech therapist in the school system at our new place of residence in Mitchell, South Dakota, I began a private practice in our home, teaching students from kindergarten through college age. This allowed me to continue as a wife and mother to my three toddlers, a daughter and twin boys. However, this was during the early days of World War II, and teachers were very scarce. Soon the superintendent of schools offered me a full-time position as a junior high school teacher. The class he had in mind had forty-two students who had forced two teachers to quit in tears. For some reason he felt I possessed the rare combination of snake charmer and lion tamer it would take to handle this class. When I told him I could not leave my three babies to teach school away from home, he arranged for the school system to pay a full salary, even though I did not possess a teaching credential; hired a full-time housekeeper and full-time babysitter; and paid their salaries in addition to mine.
I finished the year successfully and was offered an identical contract for the next year, but my husband had accepted a position in Rapid City, located in the beautiful Black Hills of South Dakota.
In Rapid City I again accepted private students for speech therapy and for declamatory contests. Then the local American Association of University Women asked me to volunteer as head of the AAUW drama group. This gave me the opportunity to use my theater skills from college, and soon we developed into a successful community theater, which continues production to this day--fifty years later.
A few years after this the local radio station approached me about taking over a women's radio show. Again I was reluctant because I did not want to leave my now school-age children home without their mother. The radio station accommodated me by installing equipment allowing me to broadcast the show from home. My children were threatened, upon pain of death, never to interrupt me during the fifteen-minute time period I was on the air. Years later, I learned my enterprising eight-year-old son had been selling tickets to the neighborhood children to peek through the window to watch me broadcast on the radio.
Our lives were almost shattered when one of the twins was killed in a pedestrian accident. However, my deep faith, the support of my husband and family, and my demanding work as a radio and later television program personality with daily programs were the therapy that sustained me emotionally and intellectually. I continued to broadcast five days a week for the next twenty-five years. My radio show broadcast from home grew into a more than full-time enterprise, especially when television finally came to Rapid City and I began writing, producing, and appearing in everything from local talent shows to children's programs. Glen Yarbough, Paul Williams, and Tom Brokaw are just a few of the now nationally known personalities who were all with me and with KOTA Radio and TV during those years and began their careers at that station.
Eventually I was awarded the McCalls Magazine Golden MIKE Award for the best women's show in the country and was runner-up the next year. I had the longest fully-sponsored women's radio show in the nation and was given the Western Heritage Award for the best western documentary. Other awards and honors followed during my time as a radio and television personality, but that all ended when I contracted Parkinson's disease in 1968. It attacked my throat, and I lost my voice.
After years of readjustment, new medication, and prayer finally restored my health, I learned to adapt to my life as wife and grandmother, perfecting my bridge game and catching up with the social commitments I had been forced to ignore during my working years.
My husband and I enjoyed our retirement years together with cruises, winters in South Carolina or California, ballroom dancing, and competitive duplicate bridge.
Then at seventy-five, the lights went out. The diagnosis was macular degeneration. Within days, in spite of laser surgery, I was completely blind in one eye and had defective sight in the other. I could no longer read or drive a car. Eight months later a deep black velvet curtain closed out all the sunlight in my right eye. There was no pain, just darkness. At first I was angry at God for allowing this to happen, at my grandparents and parents for passing on defective genes, and at the world in general. I really had a major pity party.
However, I could not endure this dark night of the soul for the rest of my life. Within a few weeks a charming rehabilitation teacher from South Dakota Human Services, Division of Services to the Blind and Visually Impaired, came to our home to help me learn how to take care of myself and our home. She taught me how to organize my cupboards, closets, and groceries; how to use the stove and to cook; how to identify my clothes; and (especially important) how to determine the front from the back of slacks. I also learned how to put on makeup without looking like a clown.
I learned how to organize my billfold so I could distinguish between $1, $5, $10, and $20; how to distinguish between coins; how to write a check; and how to use a dial or push-button phone. The South Dakota affiliate of the National Federation of the Blind taught me white cane travel. They also taught me Braille, which I found easy and fascinating. At first I wanted to know only enough to play bridge with Braille cards. That didn't take long, and soon I was joining my friends at their weekly bridge parties. However, I became so interested in the Braille code that I enrolled in the Hadley Correspondence School for the Blind in Winnetka, Illinois, and am now in the third year of Braille study.
I also get talking books of every kind and description from the National Library Service (South Dakota Braille & Talking Book Library) through the Library of Congress and often give book reviews for various organizations.
Creative writing had always been my profession as well as hobby. But my typewriter was of little value since I was unable to see my errors. So I learned to use a computer with voice output (computer and lessons provided by the state rehabilitation agency).
Also, about this time I was given a Lowry organ and, with the help of the most talented organ teacher in the city, am learning to play the organ and again express my lifetime love of music. This was a challenge for my teacher for he had never taught a blind person before. He placed a corn pad at middle C on the keyboard, and we have both learned together. He is now writing a book on giving music lessons to the blind.
Best of all, all these services were provided by experts or professionals (with the exception of the organ teacher) at no cost to me. They are all part of the many free services of the National Federation of the Blind, South Dakota Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired, and the South Dakota Braille & Talking Book Library. Thanks to them and their continuing encouragement, I am able to do everything I did before I lost my sight, except drive a car, and I have discovered that blindness does not put an end to joyful living.
At this point I know I can't possibly be eighty years old when I feel like twenty-eight inside. Old age isn't for sissies, but what do I know? Eighty isn't old.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Dr. Kenneth Jernigan]
NEWSLINE NETWORK: A NATIONWIDE
NEWSPAPER SERVICE FOR THE BLIND
by Kenneth Jernigan
Every morning many people throughout the world start the day with a cup of coffee and the morning newspaper. They do, that is, unless they are among the tens of millions of people who are blind or severely visually impaired. The National Federation of the Blind has initiated a project which gives promise of making newspapers available on a regular basis to the blind of the United States, and ultimately possibly the world.
The latest figures from the National Center for Health Statistics indicate that there are approximately nine million Americans with severe visual impairments. This includes blind and visually impaired children and adults of various ages. The National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, the primary source of recorded and Braille materials for those in the United States who cannot read regular print because of a visual or physical disability, has almost 800,000 subscribers. Most of these individuals do not have the opportunity to read the full text of a newspaper on a regular basis, and even when they do, their ability to skip and scan throughout its pages is severely limited.
If blind persons can have timely access to newspapers, they will greatly benefit. This will be one more area in which they will be on a more equal footing with friends, family members, associates, and competitors. Blind professionals, for instance, will be able to converse with sighted colleagues about relevant data in the newspaper. They will no longer be underinformed about facts critical to their professions, or embarrassed at social functions when the latest editorial is discussed. Blind mothers will have ready access to useful information such as community events, recipes, and household issues, as well as current events they can discuss with their children. Blind high school students will be able to work with their sighted peers on daily news projects for social studies. Blind members of the debate team will learn of the latest developments in the nation and the world, having information comparable to that available to their sighted classmates. In short, blind people will, for the first time in history, be able to get quick access to everything from business trends and syndicated columns to human interest stories, sports information, and hard news.
Less tangible, but possibly even more important, is the participation in community affairs by blind persons that access to the newspaper will afford. They will have the same chance that sighted people have to know what public officials are doing and not doing. Access to the newspaper means empowerment.
The problem of making newspapers available to the blind is not new. There have been repeated attempts to solve it, and those attempts have had only partial success because of inadequate technology. For example, the time and expense involved in Braille production, along with the cost and bulk of paper, have combined to rule out any practical possibility of a daily Braille newspaper. The relatively limited number of Braille readers has been another consideration weighing against a commercial venture in this area. A nonprofit public service organization would have to face serious questions about the wisdom of investing its limited resources in such an effort. Where attempts have been made to publish a daily newspaper in Braille, the results have been both costly and unsuccessful, and very few blind people have benefited. Usually only highlights of the paper have been produced, and the project has been short- lived.
In recent years, two distinct methods of attempting to provide the blind of the United States with access to newspapers have emerged. The first of these involves radio reading services. This requires a staff (either volunteer or professional) to read a newspaper for daily live broadcast. It is the principal way (approximately a hundred such radio reading services are now in operation) that the blind of the United States currently have of reading newspapers. But the system has serious limitations. For one thing, it requires a major financial outlay.
As a beginning, there is the start-up cost; for although a few of the radio reading services use regular open channels for broadcast, the overwhelming majority do not. They use the subcarrier waves of FM channels. This means that each blind user must be provided with a special receiver at a considerable cost. Additionally, broadcast facilities, with all that that implies, must be obtained; and staff must be recruited and coordinated.
But the cost is not all. The blind cannot read the newspaper in a timely manner, for the sighted reader must first get the printed copy and then read it on the air. Moreover, if an article is not broadcast at a time that is convenient for the blind listener, it is not heard and is lost forever. This first generation of newspapers for the blind is better than nothing, but not much. It has certainly distributed many of its expensive receivers. Moreover, it claims to have many listeners--but the blind say otherwise.
Recently a second generation (a newer technology) has come into being. Using this system, sighted staff (either paid or volunteer) get the print newspaper and read it onto a computer. The computer is attached to telephone lines, and blind persons may call and read what articles they want whenever they like.
This second generation of technology represents real progress. The blind reader is not limited to a given time for a particular article, and skipping and scanning can be done. An article can be read more than once. Still, there are problems. Mostly they revolve around quality and expense. It is not economically practical to employ a large staff of professional readers for the daily newspaper, so volunteers are necessarily used. Usually some of them are excellent readers; some are extremely poor; and most are somewhere between. The quality is uneven and not uniform. Also, if a volunteer becomes sick or fails to appear for some other reason, a crisis occurs.
As to expense, studios must be obtained and paid for; equipment must be secured; and there is necessarily a considerable amount of personnel cost. For even if most of the staff are volunteer, supervisors and recruiters must be hired. There is no way to have this type of operation without a considerable expenditure of money and human resources on an ongoing basis. It is not simply a matter of initial start-up cost with a subsequent decrease of expense. The heavy expense is ongoing.
Even so, this second generation of newspapers for the blind is a tremendous advance over the first generation. Why, then, are there more than a hundred of the first- generation types and fewer than ten of the second? Some of the answer can be found in momentum. Once a thing is started, it tends to have a life of its own. Additionally, there is the matter of vested interest. People have jobs, which they naturally want to keep. Volunteers get satisfaction from reading and from raising money, as well as a feeling of prestige and self-worth. Funding sources have been developed, and they tend to continue. Nevertheless, the second generation is now taking hold.
In 1994 a third generation emerged. It gives promise of revolutionary advancement. Established by the National Federation of the Blind, it is called NEWSLINE for the Blind, and it has features about it that have never before been possible.
It envisions not just the availability of a local newspaper for the blind of a given community but a nationwide network that will permit the blind of the entire nation to have access to both local and national newspapers wherever they go and at any time of the day or night. Early each morning computers at the National Center for the Blind in Baltimore make contact with computers at USA Today, the Chicago Tribune, and the New York Times. The texts of these newspapers are brought into the central computers at the National Center for the Blind, put into proper format, and sent by modem to every local service center in the country. This can be done in a few minutes.
If the sponsors of a local service center wish and if they can make the necessary arrangements, the local newspaper or newspapers in their community can be added to the system. In that case the computers at the National Center for the Blind will make contact with the computers at the office of the local newspaper and follow the same procedures that are used with the three national newspapers. The text is brought to the National Center by modem, put into proper format, and then flashed back to the local service center.
There is more. Each local service center has what is called a special channel. Any information that the sponsors of the local service center want on this channel can be put there--local bus or train schedules, announcements of meetings, information about new material in the library, data about job openings, or anything else. Material for the local channel is handled in the same way as newspaper text. It comes to the National Center for the Blind, is put into proper format, and is modemed back to the local service center. The process is quick and efficient.
Human voices are not used anywhere in the process. The reading is done by synthesized speech, DecTalk. It does not have the uneven quality of the voices and reading skills of a group of volunteers but is absolutely uniform and dependable. After a short period of strangeness and getting used to it, it becomes completely unnoticeable. One is aware of reading the newspaper and not of the voice, which is essentially what happens to the sighted reader: the sighted reader is not constantly aware of the print and the sheet of paper but only of the text.
The newspaper publishers are understandably concerned to protect the security of their intellectual property. Therefore, each blind person who signs up as a reader (regardless of where in the nation) is given both a security code number and an identity code number, both of which must be keyed into the telephone before the user can get access to the system. The security code and identity numbers for each individual are sent to every local service center in the network. Every reader is given a list of the telephone numbers for every local service center. This means that once the network is fully operational the blind person can travel anywhere in the nation and read the local and national newspapers from hotel room or the home of a friend or relative. In fact, with at least three national newspapers and the local newspaper universally available, the blind person will, for the first time in history, arguably have an advantage over the average sighted person in at least this area of information.
So how does it work, and what does it cost? There is an initial start-up cost for every local service center--currently $18,000 for a four-telephone-line system, $24,000 for a twelve-line system, and $30,000 for a twenty-four-line system. In addition, there is a start-up cost of $5,000 to add a local newspaper. There is no start-up cost for the special channel. This start-up cost is not for the purchase of equipment. It is exactly what the term implies. It is a start-up cost. It is paid once, and never again. The ongoing costs to each local service center are only $12,000 a year plus $2,000 a year for the addition of a local newspaper. There is no extra cost for the special channel. This is the entire expense except for the monthly charges on local telephone lines.
If the local service center wishes to employ a staff member to recruit readers or for other purposes, this can be done, of course; but it is not necessary. Nor is any extensive office space required. All that is needed is a desk top to hold the black box which is sent from the National Center.
Some have suggested that further savings might be accomplished by having the local service center establish WATS lines. This is not practical for a number of reasons. In the first place the cost of WATS-line service will greatly exceed the ongoing thousand dollars per month for another local service center plus the fact that, regardless of cost, no reliable budget can be made. At least as important, even a twenty-four-line local service center will be unable to accommodate more readers than it has in its own area. Thus, the installation of WATS lines will involve extra expense, an overload of the system, chaotic budgeting, dissatisfied blind persons, and a totally unworkable operation.
This deals with the cost, but what about the nuts and bolts? The National Federation of the Blind has spent several hundred thousand dollars in engineering and development costs. The effort to improve and upgrade will be ongoing.
The local service center will be sent a black box--incidentally, it is just that, a black box. The box is sealed, and the local service center is not authorized to tamper with it. The black box can simply be set on a desk and plugged into a regular electric outlet. Nothing else is required except to plug in local telephone lines. Someone connected with the local service center is asked to be responsible for informing the National Center if on a given day local blind persons are not receiving the newspaper. In such an event either personnel at the National Center will be able to make immediate repairs by telephone or another black box (several are always kept on hand in readiness) will be sent overnight to the local service center without any charge. The local service center assumes responsibility for shipping the defective black box back to the National Center. That is all there is to it--no additional expense to the local service center, no extensive facilities, no costly personnel, just a regular flow of the local and national newspapers to the blind of the community plus the information on the special channel.
Of equal importance with the technology is the concept of the network. This is truly the third generation of newspapers for the blind. Even so, the first generation (the radio reading services) will not simply cease to exist and go away. We have seen that from the experience of what happened when the second generation was introduced. For that matter, the second generation will likely not behave any differently. The jobs, the vested interests involving emotion and prestige, and the force of habit will react against the change. The arguments (emotional and strident) will not be made on these grounds, of course; but the effect will be the same. Nevertheless, change is inevitable.
The third generation is certainly not perfect, but it is better than anything we have ever had before. And there is every evidence that the blind will increasingly want and demand it. Moreover, this is not a dream for the future. It is now. The technology is functioning; the system is in place; and local service centers are now in operation.
In many instances the third generation may well coexist with first- and second-generation facilities. In others it will undoubtedly supersede them. It is too early to know what the fourth generation will be, but it will certainly come. And when it does, one wonders whether the operators of the third generation will resist it with as much vigor as their predecessors resisted them. Nobody knows, but the answer is likely yes.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Betty Walker]
FROM THE CLASSROOM: FEDERATIONIST
MAKES A DIFFERENCE
by Betty Walker
From the Editor: Betty and Dave Walker are active members of the National Federation of the Blind of Missouri who live in Jefferson City. At the beginning of the 1994-95 academic year Betty was hired to work with an elementary school student who was entering the public school system for the first time. Educators often refuse to consider hiring blind people to assist with such transitions, and of course to do the necessary work effectively the blind teachers must have appropriate skills and good sense, but done right the experience can be positive for everyone. Here is Betty's brief report of what happened in Jefferson City:
In 1988, when David was ready to enter school, the Jefferson City Public School System was not prepared to work with blind children, so David was sent to the school for the blind in St. Louis. In 1991 the National Federation of the Blind of Missouri led a successful campaign to pass our Braille bill, which mandates that blind children be given the opportunity to learn Braille in public schools. With this new law in place, David was enrolled in the city school system, and I was hired to facilitate meeting his Braille needs and to advise staff in other areas about blindness.
When I heard that David was returning to Jefferson City to enter school and that there was a need for a Braille teacher to work with him, I applied for the job and was hired. I was the first blind teacher hired by the Jefferson City Public Schools, and David is the first totally blind child to be enrolled in this school system. Prior to applying for this job, I passed the National Library Service Literary Braille Competency Test; I was the first person in Missouri to do so. I felt that, with my background in education, Braille skills, and Federation philosophy, I would be a positive role model for David and would have the skills and knowledge to help him develop his Braille skills and alternative techniques in order to reach his highest educational potential.
David is very bright, but he needs to improve his Braille skills. This is one of my primary tasks. In addition to teaching him new uses of contractions, I teach him to use Braille in subjects other than reading and writing. I advise his teachers in how to use Braille and tactile markings in classes like physical education, art, and music. I also transcribe examinations, work sheets, and other classroom handouts and assist his sighted aide in preparing other materials such as graphs, charts, games, etc.
I continually remind teachers and his sighted aide that David is a normal child and that special efforts to protect him are not in his best interests. I remind them that he needs to face many of the same things sighted children do if he is to develop and survive in a sighted society.
I have been introducing David to Braille maps borrowed from my husband so that he can learn how to use them. I recently bought him a book that led him on an adventure through the Great Lakes to the ocean. When I brought in maps of the area, David was ecstatic. It gives me a great feeling to know that I am developing David's skills in Braille and having a positive influence in his education and life.
SUPPORT, SPUNK HELP BOY BEST HIS BLINDNESS
by Nancy Vessell
From the Editor: The following article first appeared in the Jefferson City, Missouri, News Tribune on Sunday, January 15, 1995. It is an interesting accompaniment to the preceding story by Betty Walker. Here it is:
David Rice and his teacher, Betty Walker, were recalling the coloring book she'd made earlier in the year for David's classmates.
David had almost forgotten it, then was struck with an idea: "You can come over to my house and we can color it." Mrs. Walker responded: "But David, neither of us can see the lines."
The boy and his teacher are blind--a trait not conducive to coloring. But at East Elementary School, where the two work together, it was just a temporary setback. A teacher's aide assigned to David, Carol Bange, offered to outline the lines in the coloring book with a sticky material they could feel.
David is in the fourth grade, where most of his time is spent alongside sixteen other students learning things like multiplication, electromagnetics, and basic economics from their teacher, Deann Branson.
However, for an hour each day, David leaves his classmates to work with Mrs. Walker on his Braille lessons.
David, the son of Jill Speckhals of Jefferson City and Boyd Rice of Ashland, was born blind. The condition is total; he can't even distinguish sunlight and shadows.
Until this year David was educated at the Missouri School for the Blind in St. Louis. He lived at the school during the school year, returning home on weekends and during summers.
But last year his mother decided to enroll him in public school here.
"He was ready to come home. In the past he had never complained about going to school down there. But he came of the age that he realized there were other kids. And he wanted to come home and be with Mom," Mrs. Speckhals said.
So for the first time twelve-year-old David entered a school in his hometown. To accommodate his special needs, the Jefferson City School District hired Mrs. Walker as a Braille aide to spend a couple of hours each day helping David read and write Braille and transcribing some of his lessons into Braille.
At the beginning of the school year, Mrs. Walker visited all the classes in the school to explain what it's like to be blind, using the coloring book she'd made for illustration.
Mrs. Walker, who was blinded at age twenty-one by diabetes, is the first Missourian to pass the National Literary Braille Competency Test from the Library of Congress. She's a volunteer with the National Federation of the Blind.
She's the first blind aide to be hired by the school district. Linda Tetley, the principal at East, noted that if Mrs. Walker hadn't been available, the school probably would have had to send a teacher to the School for the Blind to learn Braille.
"I was glad to have the opportunity to help David and give him a role model. He may feel like he's the only one here," Mrs. Walker said.
One day last week in a corner of the art room, Mrs. Walker and David took turns reading paragraphs in a Braille book, Paddle to the Sea. Mrs. Bange read along in a picture book, helping with difficult words David encountered.
"...he had escaped Lake Superior's icy waters and violent storms," David read.
When they completed a chapter, Mrs. Bange described for David and Mrs. Walker the book's picture of a stormy sea and a small boat tethered to the land by a cable.
An especially inquisitive child, David wanted to know whether the cable was attached to a pulley and what a buoy looks like.
He also demanded information from the reporter observing him--what was she reporting, why, who would be reading the story, and whether being in the newspaper was like being on "Rod's Big Ole Fish" on TV.
After David and Mrs. Walker worked on Braille, they picked up their canes and headed to different parts of the school--David joined the rest of his class, and Mrs. Walker spent about an hour transcribing some of his classroom lessons into Braille.
To do that, she listened to a tape on which David's lessons were dictated by Mrs. Bange. For other assignments requiring a pair of eyes, Mrs. Bange works directly with David.
On that day Mrs. Branson was working with the class on multiplication, while Mrs. Bange and David discussed the problems quietly at a table along the side of the room.
To figure twenty-three times three, David insisted on adding three twenty-three's in his head, arguing that he could do it faster that way. "When I add, it relieves my fear that we won't get it done," he told her.
Mrs. Bange tried to explain that he needed to learn the process of multiplying. Meanwhile Mrs. Branson's class went on to seventeen times four.
Mrs. Branson said having a special aide for David is necessary so he doesn't take much of her time from the other students.
For things that can't be put into Braille, like maps and graphs, Mrs. Bange uses raised paint or a sticky material so David can feel the outlines.
David's fingers nimbly moved along the painted outlines of a map as he named all of the central states, only momentarily mixing up Kentucky and Tennessee. "Here's the Bootheel. What's in the Bootheel?" he wanted to know.
Although he has his own aide and some special materials, David "fits in like any other students," Mrs. Branson said.
She noted that at the beginning of the year some of David's classmates went overboard in trying to help him find his desk or his tote bag or walk down the hall.
"At first, they tried to baby him. We had to explain that he's just as capable--he just can't see," Mrs. Branson said.
His classmates elected David to the Student Council after he delivered a speech that, among other things, promised a pursuit of new playground equipment.
One classmate, Darrell Robinson, said he likes David in his class. "He likes playing eight-square. It's fun having him around."
Darrell said students sometimes forget David is blind, and he has to ask them to "scoot up so he can get by in the lunchroom."
David said he'd gotten tired of living in a dormitory at school and wanted to stay home. "I'd do just about anything to come here," he said.
Mrs. Speckhals, his mother, said she thinks that being around sighted children has spurred David to assume more responsibilities.
"I think he'll mature quite a bit. He'll realize that other kids don't have someone to guide them around," she said.
A few problems had to be worked out at school, she said. David had to learn to speak in the classroom only after raising his hand. Previously, he'd been in a classroom with only three other children, so raising hands wasn't necessary.
Several partially blind students have been enrolled in the school district, but David now is the only totally blind student, said Arthur Allen, the district's director of special education.
"The mother came to us in May and said she wanted him in the public schools. That's a bit of a challenge to work through. You're never quite sure whether it's appropriate, but it's her right to have him in school," Allen said.
He added: "It's worked out better than any of us ever thought it would. He's assimilated much faster than anticipated. That's because he's determined. He has a lot of spunk."
Mrs. Walker said assimilating David into a classroom with sighted children helps him face realities.
"When kids with a certain disability are isolated, they don't get into the real world. They won't ever have the experience of being made fun of. He'll have to learn that because he will be part of the real world," she said.
She said she finds him a challenge to work with. "He's kind of a charmer. He tries to charm his way out of things."
Then, making note of his appearance, Mrs. Walker said: "I hear he's a cute kid."
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Wayne Davis]
IT CAN BE DONE
by Wayne Davis
From the Editor: Wayne Davis is the President of the National Federation of the Blind of Florida. The following story is an example of what can be accomplished when Federationists work together. Here it is:
About a year ago I was sitting at my computer when I received a phone call from Sandy Pranzarone, the President of the Pensacola Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Florida. Sandy was calling to inform me that she had received notification that, after fifty free directory- assistance calls a month, blind people in Pensacola were being charged for directory assistance. After I finished talking with Miss Pranzarone, I started researching the issue and came up with some disturbing information. Here are the facts that surfaced as a result of my investigation.
The Public Service Commission, which is made up of members appointed by the governor of the state, had held a hearing on the removal of free directory assistance for the blind almost a year before. The Public Service Commission had not notified the NFB of Florida; the Florida Council of the Blind; or our state agency for the blind, the Division of Blind Services, about that so-called public hearing. After a number of attempts, I was at last able to speak to someone in authority in the Communications Department of Florida's Public Service Commission and learned that the announcement of that public hearing had been published in a single newspaper in Tallahassee. I informed the Public Service Commission by phone, letter, and FAX that, by the very nature of our disability, the blind citizens of Florida were unable to read the announcement in a newspaper and that therefore the public Service Commission had failed to provide us with reasonable notice of its proposed action.
As President of the National Federation of the Blind of Florida, I urged the Public Service Commission to reverse its decision allowing the phone companies to charge blind people for directory assistance because the blind citizens of Florida had not been notified about the hearing or the proposed action on the part of the Public Service Commission. As my investigation went forward, I also learned that some blind people had already been charged for directory-assistance calls for several months by one of the companies that provide phone service here in Florida. I was told by Southern Bell and AT&T that the phone companies felt that fifty free directory-assistance calls for the blind was a generous concession on their part. They also said that several other southern states were already charging blind people for directory assistance and that I should tell our members that there was nothing we could do about it. They also told me that the reason they were charging for directory assistance was that some blind people were abusing the use of free directory assistance by gathering phone numbers for companies that were compiling mailing lists for sales, and that family members and co-workers of blind people were also abusing the free directory-assistance privilege for the blind.
We launched a massive letter-writing campaign to the Governor and to the Public Service Commission. All of our chapters took part in this campaign to get the Public Service Commission to reverse the ruling that allows blind people to be charged for local directory assistance. Many of our members also made long-distance phone calls and sent FAX letters to both the Governor's office and the Public Service Commission.
In the beginning it looked as though we were beating our heads against a stone wall. The Governor responded by saying that the Public Service Commission was not under his authority and that there was nothing he could do to help us in our struggle. The Public Service Commission was slow to return phone calls and basically tried to stonewall us on the issue.
We did not ease up, though. We got a couple of newspapers to come out in support of our position, and at long last, after endless delays, the Public Service Commission informed me that there would be a public hearing on the directory-assistance question on September 12, 1995. They assured me that the question would be resolved in our favor, so there was no need for us to spend the money to fly up to Tallahassee for the hearing. It goes without saying that by that time neither I nor the other members of the National Federation of the Blind of Florida had much faith in the promises of the Public Service Commission, so on the morning of September 12 I was on a plane to Tallahassee. It was as well that I went, because only one other blind person was there. The phone companies were there in force, though, with their high-paid attorneys. A lawyer for one of the phone companies asked me if I would agree to accept 200 free directory assistance calls each month. I said that would be fine if the phone companies could find a way to restrict their sighted customers to using their phone books no more than 200 times each month.
I went on to assure them that personally I would be pleased to use a Braille phone directory if they wished to provide it. I then pointed out to them how many volumes of Braille each directory would require and spoke about the cost of producing even one directory in Braille. I also told them that not all blind people could read Braille and suggested that they should also plan to produce their phone books on CD-ROM for blind computer users. I pointed out, however, that not every blind person who had a computer owned a CD-ROM, so they would have to provide CD-ROM units to all blind computer users who needed them so that they could use the CD-version of the phone book. I went on to say that many legally blind people would undoubtedly require their phone books to be provided in large print. Somehow, they did not seem to appreciate my suggestions about the ways they could make telephone directories accessible to blind citizens.
To cut to the bottom line: as of 11:00 on the morning of September 12, 1995, blind people in Florida once again had unlimited free local directory assistance, and the Public Service Commission threw in fifty free long-distance directory-assistance calls each month as well--a service that we had not even requested. As President of the NFB of Florida I want to thank Sandy Pranzarone for bringing this issue to my attention and all of the members and leaders of the affiliate for having worked so hard on this issue.
In the beginning, when Sandy informed me of this problem, I did not know whether we could win or not, but I knew that we had to try. Blind people in Florida received much more than free directory assistance from this victory. Once again, we all learned a profound lesson: by working together we can truly change what it means to be blind.
[PHOTO: The picture shows Kim Aguillard using her long white cane. She has just crossed the street at an intersection. CAPTION: Kim Aguillard]
TAKING A STEP IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION
by Kimberly Aguillard
From the Editor: In October, 1995, the Louisiana Center for the Blind, the adult rehabilitation center operated by the National Federation of the Blind of Louisiana, celebrated a decade of service to blind people. A new addition was opened, and Center alumni returned from across the country to join in the festivities. To mark the occasion, the alumni organization also compiled a book of testimonials to the importance of good training, positive role models, and active participation in the organized blind movement. The title of this publication is A Personal Perspective, edited by Olegario D. Cantos, VII. One of the contributors was Kimberly Aguillard, who is currently in the eighth grade at Central Middle School in Nederland, Texas. In this story Kimberly tells about her first experience with the philosophy and attitudes of the National Federation of the Blind. Here is what she has to say:
Being in my early teens, I function just like any other thirteen-year-old--going to dances and parties and getting involved with extracurricular activities such as serving on the student council, working on the school paper, and singing in the school choir. I also act like any other thirteen-year-old, occasionally smarting off or breaking rules. The only thing that makes me different from everyone else is that I am totally blind.
I have had no vision since I was nine. The little vision I had before then was not very helpful. I used large print books, even though I knew Braille. I knew how to use a cane but never did because I thought I could get around well enough without it. I was wrong. After I became blind, I learned Nemeth code for math. My Dad also helped me learn how to use an abacus. I made it through fourth and fifth grade, having adjusted pretty well.
The summer before sixth grade my mother and I went to the annual convention of the National Federation of the Blind in Dallas. I knew as soon as we stepped into the lobby of the hotel that it would be an experience I would never forget. Nearly everyone had a cane or guide dog. I felt silly hanging on to my mom's arm. I noticed how well some of the people got around, and I was encouraged. I met a lot of nice people and also traded in my old short cane for a new long one.
I met a lot of kids from the Summer Training and Employment Project (STEP) at the Louisiana Center for the Blind. They explained to my mother and me that the program was for blind teenagers. If I enrolled, I would take classes in Braille, cane travel, daily living skills, and computers. The program also helps students find summer jobs. My mother was very interested; I was not!
When it came time to apply the next year, my mother did. I was not old enough for STEP, so I was placed in the Buddy Program. I was nervous just thinking about going, but I was terrified when my Mom explained that my counselors and teachers would also be blind. I didn't let either of my parents know that I was scared; I just complained about how it would ruin my summer. But, when my parents dropped me off, I had to admit that they had won this one, and I was stuck in Ruston for a month.
I started to like it, though; it was just a neat setup. There were only eight kids with four counselors. It was fun having such a small group. I made friends with the students and could talk to them about stuff that I couldn't talk to my sighted friends about. I could talk to them because they knew how it felt and could relate. The counselors were great role models. I especially liked my counselor, Brenda Walburn. I also liked my travel instructor, Eddie Bell. It always seemed as though he was picking on me and asking me confusing questions. I would know the answer, but if he asked, "Are you sure?" I was not sure. I liked cane travel the most even though it scared me. It wasn't long until I started to love the Buddy Program. It really helped me to be surrounded by positive blind people.
Before I knew it, we were in the last week, and it was time for my solo route in travel. At first I was terrified. But then I realized I could do it, and I got excited. I remember walking into travel class, feeling slightly nervous, getting my assignment, and going on my way. I don't remember having any problems.
When my parents came up for the parents' seminar at the end of the four-week summer session, they were delighted to see me floating around so easily. I took my cane into all the stores and used it well. I was really sad to go, because I would miss all my friends. I talked to them when I needed to strengthen my beliefs in what I could do as a blind person. I think that, of all the staff, Eddie had the most influence on me. I know that, if he hadn't pushed me until I was so mad that I felt like screaming, I would never have done those routes, and I would never have developed much confidence.
I feel very lucky to have my parents too. I used to get mad at them for always expecting so much of me. I now realize that, if they hadn't always pushed me to do better in school and in everything I did, I wouldn't have tried. I wouldn't have tried to make student council or honor society. I am also very glad they made me go to Ruston. They knew that it would be good for me, and as usual they were right. Sometimes I wonder what it would have been like never to have met Eddie, Brenda, or the rest. I really believe that, if I hadn't come to the Louisiana Center for the Blind, I would still be scared of a lot of things.
Sometimes I also wonder about my future. Who knows what kind of challenges it will hold? As long as I have the support of my parents, the friends I have made at the center in Ruston, and the National Federation of the Blind, I can handle anything that is thrown my way! If ever I meet other blind people who don't know about the National Federation of the Blind, I'm going to tell them how much I believe in them the same way that my Federation friends continue to believe in me!
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Pam Dubel]
THE GREATEST GIFT
by Pamela Dubel
From the Editor: Like the previous article, this story first appeared in A Personal Perspective, edited by Ollie Cantos, a publication of the Louisiana Center for the Blind alumni chapter. Pam Dubel is now a resource-teacher consultant at the Louisiana Center for the Blind. Pam is also a 1991 National Federation of the Blind scholarship winner. This is what she says about the greatest gift:
I became blind when I was approximately three years old as a result of retinal blastoma, a type of cancer. Although my parents were shocked by my loss of sight, they fortunately realized that I was still the same child except that I could not see. Through their love and high expectations, they instilled in me a sense of pride and confidence about my ability to succeed. Growing up as the youngest of six children also helped me to learn to be independent. Since I was the youngest, nobody, especially my brother who was a year older than I, let me get away with anything.
I attended a private Catholic school where I was the only blind child. My itinerant teacher provided me with a sound foundation in Braille, which helped me excel in academics. As I mentioned earlier, my parents expected me to do my best and to engage in activities that would make me a well-rounded person. I participated in horseback riding, skiing, and cheerleading during elementary school. During high school my interests shifted to performing in chorus, doing community service, and having fun with my friends. While growing up, I had limited contact with other blind people my age. In general I had no desire to associate with people who were blind.
I realize that every high school senior experiences some trepidation about the transition to adulthood and independence. However, as high school graduation approached, I began to have questions that my sighted peers couldn't answer. I knew that I would attend college, and I hoped that I would eventually find a job, but I secretly wondered if I would truly be able to obtain employment. After all, I had had difficulty finding part-time work during high school. I had also never lived on my own, and I wondered how successful I would be at that.
Although I entered college with some apprehension, I was determined to achieve my best. My small liberal arts college provided me with an exciting environment for learning and growing. However, those unanswered questions still nagged at me. If people were so amazed that I could accomplish the most insignificant tasks, would they ever treat me as an equal? I realized that I had to meet other blind people who had more experience and could serve as role models.
My search exposed me to a wide variety of groups and organizations of and for the blind. However, it was not until I attended a student seminar hosted by the National Federation of the Blind of Ohio that I began to find the answers for which I had been searching. Although I didn't realize it at the time, the seminar marked the beginning of a new chapter of my life. At the seminar I met Barbara Pierce, President of the NFB of Ohio. She told me about the Louisiana Center for the Blind. She spoke with Joanne Wilson, the director, and arranged for me to complete an internship at the center that May. As soon as I completed it, I was invited to work as a counselor in the children's summer program that year. After graduation from college, I decided to become a student at the center. I recognized that I still needed to gain some confidence in my skills and in my abilities to be a successful blind person. Presently I am employed as a resource-teacher consultant at the Louisiana Center for the Blind. My job has allowed me to spread the message that it is respectable to be blind.
Many times people have asked me what makes the Louisiana Center for the Blind such a special place. What sets our alumni apart from those of other kinds of rehabilitation facilities? The answer to this question is that, by attending our center, students are exposed to the National Federation of the Blind. The NFB is more than an organization; it is a loving family. Regardless of where you are, you can find members of the NFB who can give you support and encouragement when you need them. The NFB also provides a constant source of role models who challenge you to set goals for yourself.
I used to believe that I did not need other blind people. I thought that being independent meant succeeding without the help of others. My involvement with the NFB has taught me that this is not true. I have learned that I need reinforcement from my blind colleagues. I have also started to give back what I have been shown by working with blind children. Through our collective efforts the National Federation of the Blind has truly changed what it means to be blind. Training at the Louisiana Center for the Blind gives you many things: skills, confidence, freedom, and independence, to name a few. However, the greatest gift any blind person can receive is the National Federation of the Blind.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: The Anaheim Hilton]
CALIFORNIA HERE WE COME!
by Pat and Jack Munson
From the Editor: Pat and Jack Munson are long-time members and leaders of the National Federation of the Blind of California. Pat also serves as President of the National Association of Blind Educators. They have now spent a good bit of time getting to know the Anaheim Hilton, where the 1996 convention of the National Federation of the Blind will be held. Here's what they have to say about the facility:
If you are interested in going to Disneyland or other theme parks; getting a glimpse of the fast track, where the movie stars live and work; or, most exciting of all, being a part of the never-ending progress of the National Federation of the Blind, the Anaheim Hilton Hotel and vicinity is where you will want to be June 29 to July 6, 1996. This hotel will serve as the center of NFB convention activities. Since the Anaheim Hilton is fairly new, it has an airy, spacious feel, with easy access to every part of the hotel.
Upon entering one of the many south-facing front doors, you find a fountain and large pool immediately in front of you in the center of the lobby. Turning right (that is, on the east side of the fountain), you enter an open area, which includes a restaurant and lounge. To the left or west of the fountain are the check-in desk and related business counters. By walking through either the restaurant section on the right or the hotel-registration section on the left, you come to the elevator area on the north wall. By turning to face south at the elevator bank, you find an ascending escalator on your right, somewhat closer to the fountain than the descending escalator on the left. From the second floor another escalator goes directly to the fourth floor. There is a mezzanine level on the third floor with a number of meeting rooms, but it can be reached only by the elevators or a flight of stairs. These steps begin as two staircases located between the escalators on the first floor, but at the second floor they merge into one flight which goes to the third floor.
Conventioneers will spend a good bit of time on the second floor because both the convention and exhibit halls are there. The space outside the convention hall and the exhibit area is ample, accommodating easy movement, and many seating areas are available for conventioneers to sit and chat. Always keep in mind that Californians will be out and about everywhere, so feel free to ask us for directions or other needed assistance.
The fourth floor, which can be reached by escalator from the second floor or by elevator, is called the concourse level. It contains about twenty meeting rooms. The convention, mezzanine, and concourse levels are all open in the center, so activity from the lobby level can be heard on each of the other floors.
The guest rooms and the suites of Dr. Jernigan, President Maurer, and the California affiliate are on the floors above these four. Make plans to drop by the California suite for some solid gold hospitality. You can consult the convention agenda for information about the location of all three suites and the times they will be open during convention.
Since the Anaheim Hilton is a first-class hotel, it has an extensive exercise area. There are also many specialty shops. Several of these can be found along a hall to the left of the front doors of the hotel, but most are located on the lower level, which can be reached by descending a staircase in the east-west hallway. Drinks and quick snacks can be purchased down there, and you can find a post office, travel services, and endless first-class shops. If you like spending money on perfumes, silks, and just about anything else in the world, the opportunity is just waiting for you in the Anaheim Hilton.
The usual convention services we have come to expect will, of course, be provided again this year. NFB Camp for children, a guide-dog relief area, convention information-- all will be close at hand. Everyone who has toured this hotel agrees that its design provides perhaps the best facility arrangement we have ever had.
Also, if you are on a tight budget or need something not available inside the hotel, low-cost restaurants, convenience stores, and the like are within walking distance.
All of us in California want to welcome you to the 1996 convention, so as soon as you can, come to the California table near the hotel registration desk in the lobby and pick up your pre-convention agenda and other materials. Please come introduce yourself if you are a first-time conventioneer. If you need assistance or information of any kind, be sure to let us know, because Californians want you to have the time of your life in Anaheim. Yes, Mickey Mouse will not be far away, movie stars likewise, but none of them has worked as hard as the members of the NFB, and none are as proud of their accomplishments as the organized blind. So come and join all of us in California, and be a part of what it really means to be a Federationist.
Convention rates are singles, $45 per night; doubles, $47; triples, $54; and quads, $57. In addition, there is a tax--just under 15 percent at the time these rates were negotiated. There will be no charge for children in a room with parents if no extra bed is required. To make room reservations for the 1996 convention, you should write directly to the Anaheim Hilton, 777 Convention Way, Anaheim, California 92802-3497, Attention: Reservations; or call (714) 750-4321. Hilton has a national toll-free number, but do not (we emphasize NOT) use it. Reservations made through this national number will not be valid. They must be made directly with the Anaheim Hilton in Anaheim.
DIALYSIS INFORMATION FOR CONVENTION
by Ed Bryant
From the Editor: Because of the popularity of the tourist attractions in the Anaheim area, it will be particularly important this year for those needing dialysis during the National Convention to make arrangements early for this procedure. Here is the information necessary for scheduling appointments:
During this year's annual convention of the National Federation of the Blind in Anaheim, California, Sunday, June 30, through Friday, July 5, dialysis will be available. Individuals requiring dialysis must have a transient patient packet and physician's statement filled out prior to treatment. Conventioneers should have their units contact the desired location in the Anaheim area for instructions.
Unit social workers may also contact the Shearer Program, American Kidney Fund, 6110 Executive Blvd., Suite 1010, Rockville, Maryland 20852, telephone: (800) 638-8299. Shearer will pay or reimburse the Medicare 20% copayment (about $30) for transient dialysis (up to three treatments in a given year), as well as any physician's fees for treatment. The program, however, does not cover the drug Erythropoietin (EPO), chart readings, or lab work.
If conventioneers do not have Medicare but do have Medicaid, Shearer will pay $100 toward the cost of dialysis each year. Patients wishing reimbursement must send receipts to the American Kidney Fund Shearer Program no later than two weeks after the last day dialyzed. If Shearer is not used, individuals will be responsible for, and must pay out of pocket prior to each treatment, the approximately $30 not covered by Medicare, plus any additional physician's fees.
Dialysis centers should set up transient dialysis locations, at least three months in advance. This helps assure a location for anyone wanting to dialyze. Anaheim is the home of Disneyland, and in July travel is very heavy.
Dialysis Locations Near Anaheim
California Kidney Centers of Anaheim, 2051 East Cerritos Ave. Suite 8A. Anaheim, California 92806, telephone (714) 778-1530. About five to ten minutes from the convention hotel.
UCI Dialysis, 101 City Drive, Building 51, Orange, California 92668, telephone (714) 456-5555. About ten minutes from the hotel.
Garden Grove Artificial Kidney Center, 12555 Garden Grove Boulevard, Suite 100, Garden Grove, California 92643, telephone (714) 741-7255. About ten minutes from the hotel; openings after 5:30 p.m. weekdays.
Westminster Artificial Kidney Center, 290 Hospital Circle, Westminster, California 92683, telephone (714) 895-3698. About fifteen minutes from the hotel. Very new unit; open Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
Please remember to schedule dialysis treatments immediately to insure space. You will be expected to pay, at time of service, the 20% Medicare copayment (about $30 for each treatment), plus any non-covered physician's fees and charges for EPO or Calcijex. For transportation to and from dialysis centers, contact the Orange County Transit Authority (OCTA), Access Division, telephone (800) 564-4232 or (714) 636-7433. Their rides for persons with disabilities cost $1.70 each way. This service requires application in writing well in advance. Approval (not guaranteed) takes a minimum of twenty-one days. There is also Medivan, a private van service specializing in medical transportation, telephone (714) 974-8840. It accepts private insurance and MediCal. Charges are $29.42 round-trip, plus $1.08 per mile. Contact them at least one week before you need them. If scheduling assistance is needed, contact Diabetics Division First Vice President Ed Bryant at (573) 875-8911. See you in Anaheim!
This month's recipes were submitted by members of the National Federation of the Blind of Puerto Rico. Some of them are typical dishes of the island and are eaten during specific holidays. For example, the Pickled Fish is mainly prepared during Lent, before Good Friday. This is still a religious tradition for many Puerto Rican families. The Stirred Coconut Custard is a dessert eaten mainly during the Christmas holidays.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Alpidio Rolon]
by Alpidio Rolon-Garcia
Alpidio Rol¢n-Garcia has a master's degree in Hispanic studies from the University of Puerto Rico. He is a founding member of the NFB of Puerto Rico, was its first elected Treasurer, and now serves as President of the organization. He characterizes himself as a hard worker and firm believer in the Federation. He is also President of the Society of Friends of the Regional Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped.
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
cups vegetable oil
2 cups grated carrots
Method: Sift dry ingredients together. Add oil. Beat eggs and add to other ingredients. Add grated carrots. Mix well. (I hand blend 1,000 times.) Grease a 13-by-9-by-2-1/2- inch pan. Pour batter into it and put into a 350-degree oven for fifty minutes.
1-1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
2 ounces butter (1/2 stick)
4 ounces cream cheese
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Method: Melt butter and cream cheese. Sift sugar. Add vanilla. Hand blend (1,000 times). Frost cake. Note: raisins and nuts are optional as toppings.
HOT SAUCED FISH FILLET
by Alpidio Rolon-Garcia
3 pounds fish fillets, 1/2-inch thick or more
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon mustard
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon hot sauce, or less
1 clove garlic, crushed
Method: Brown fillets in a frying pan containing butter and olive oil. Place each fillet in aluminum foil. Fold sides and leave top open. Having mixed soy sauce, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, and crushed garlic, pour a spoonful into each aluminum envelope. Seal envelopes and arrange in a baking pan. Place in a 350-degree oven for twenty minutes.
by Odette Quiones-Vargas
Odette Quiones-Vargas is an excellent homemaker and a founding and still active member of the NFB of Puerto Rico. She is the mother of Lydia Usero, the past President of the NFB of Puerto Rico. She's a member of the Calling Committee. She loves to cook and watch TV game shows.
2-1/2 cups ground meat stuffing
2-1/2pounds potatoes, peeled and cut into pieces
2 tablespoons butter
2 large eggs, beaten with melted butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
Method: Boil potatoes with salt for twenty to thirty minutes. Beat eggs and salt. Mash and mix well the potatoes and butter. Add the beaten eggs and blend. Line the bottom and sides of the dish with half of the potato mixture. Spread the stuffing across potatoes and cover with the rest of the potatoes. Bake in a preheated 375-degree oven for twenty minutes. Brush the top with melted butter and bake for five to ten minutes more or until golden. Remove from the oven and let rest ten to fifteen minutes before serving. Note: If you are using an electric oven with a top-heating element, before brushing on melted butter, change the setting to broil but leave thermostat at 375-degrees.
GROUND MEAT STUFFING
1 pound lean ground beef, pork, chicken, or turkey
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 small tomato, chopped
1 small seeded frying pepper, chopped
1 medium garlic clove, pressed
9 small pitted green olives, chopped
1 tablespoon minced capers
1/4 teaspoon ground oregano
1/2 cup tomato sauce
Method: At medium temperature in a large skillet, heat the olive oil. Saut the uncooked condiments for five minutes. Add the olives, capers, oregano, tomato sauce, and salt. Add the meat and cook for thirty minutes, stirring occasionally. Continue with potato pie recipe, refrigerate, or freeze until ready to use. This stuffing can also be used to stuff lasagna, turkey, or chicken.
by Odette Quiones-Vargas
3 pounds swordfish steaks, 1-inch thick
1 tablespoon salt
1 cup olive oil
cup white wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon peppercorns
2 small bay leaves
3 medium garlic cloves, peeled
3 medium onions, sliced
Method: Pat dry and salt the fish steaks. Let stand for thirty minutes. In a 3-quart non-reactive pan [not aluminum], simmer the sauce ingredients (except onions) for twenty minutes. Add the onions and simmer an additional ten minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool completely. In a frying pan set over moderate heat, saut the fish steak in «-inch vegetable oil for eight minutes on each side. Shake the pan frequently to prevent sticking. Remove from heat and cool. As soon as the fish and sauce cool completely, put the steaks in a tightly covered crock or glass jar. Pour the sauce over them and cover tightly. Let stand in a cool place for twenty-four hours to allow the fish to absorb the flavor of the sauce. Refrigerate and serve chilled as an appetizer.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Lydia Usero]
by Lydia Usero-Quiones
Lydia Usero-Quiones has a bachelor's degree in education from the University of Puerto Rico. She plans to keep studying to obtain her master's degree in education. Presently she is working as an English teacher at Ramirez College of Business and Technology. She is a founding member and first elected President of the NFB of Puerto Rico. Currently she serves as First Vice President of the affiliate. She is also the Treasurer of the Society of Friends of the Regional Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped.
1 cup sugar for caramel glaze
3 cups milk
cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
6 large eggs, plus 2 additional yolks
1 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
flan mold, round, 8-inch by 2-inch
larger mold for the bain-marie
Method for Glazing Caramel: Put one cup sugar in the flan mold over low to moderate heat for eight minutes. Stir continuously with a wooden spoon until the sugar is completely melted. Keep over very low heat while glazing the mold. Using your hands and working rapidly, tilt the mold in a circular pattern to spread the syrup evenly over surface. You want the bottom and sides of the mold to be caramelized. Set aside to cool.
Method for Making Flan: Preheat the oven to 325-degrees. Add enough water to the bain-marie mold to reach two thirds of the way up the flan mold and set water-filled mold in the oven. Mix well the milk, sugar, and salt without foaming and scald mixture in a sauce pan. Don't let it come to a boil. Beat the eggs and additional yolks lightly, just enough to blend them. Don't let the eggs foam up because this will produce a grainy flan. Add the scalded milk slowly to the eggs and strain. The idea is to combine the mixtures without curdling the yolks. Add the vanilla, pour into caramelized mold, and set in the pan already in the oven. Bake for ninety minutes or until a cake tester inserted slightly off center comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let cool for two hours before refrigerating. Refrigerate covered. To serve, invert a platter with a rim, which will hold the liquified caramel. Note: This recipe is specially dedicated to Ollie Cantos, President of the National Association of Blind Students. During his visit to Puerto Rico in June, he ate tons of Vanilla Flan. Enjoy, Ollie!
STIRRED COCONUT CUSTARD
by Carmen Brigantti-Ortez
Carmen is finishing her bachelor's degree in computer programming. She plans to obtain her master's degree. She works at the Regional Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. She currently serves as second Vice President of the NFB of Puerto Rico. She is a hard worker and active in the Society of Friends of the Regional Library.
4 cups coconut milk
cup cornstarch, dissolved into part of the coconut milk
Method: Mix well the coconut milk, cornstarch, salt, and sugar and strain into a heavy sauce pan. Cook at medium to medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until it thickens. Reduce the heat immediately to low and cook for five more minutes, stirring occasionally. Pour into a rinsed, drained, but still moist mold. Let cool before refrigerating covered. Separate the sides of the custard from the mold with a fine knife and invert it on a platter. Sprinkle the top with ground cinnamon.
If you or a friend would like to remember the National Federation of the Blind in your will, you can do so by employing the following language:
"I give, devise, and bequeath unto the National Federation of the Blind, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230, a District of Columbia nonprofit corporation, the sum of $__________(or "______ percent of my net estate" or "The following stocks and bonds: ________") to be used for its worthy purposes on behalf of blind persons."
New Bird Song Recordings Available:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
A dedicated birder, John Neville, has released bird song recordings: "Bird Songs of the Kootenays" and "Bird Songs of the Creston Valley." These recordings are a welcome addition to the very few available containing Canadian bird songs. Aimed at bird enthusiasts, interested visitors, and naturalists, verbal descriptions coupled with razor-sharp recordings make it possible to identify by sound even the shyest of the feathered species. The recordings, produced by Cornell University Library of Natural Sound, Ithaca, New York, and CBC Studios Toronto, exhibit sixty individual bird songs recorded on each CD from the osprey (fish hawk) to the Sandhill crane.
September 14, 1995, CBC National Radio, "Morningside" with Peter Gzowski, featured an interview with John presenting "Bird Songs of the Creston Valley."
"To stand in a swamp in your Wellingtons for several hours at dawn with a bunch of technical equipment, being eaten alive by six-legged wildlife, you would have to be crazy or dedicated." Learn to enjoy the outdoors and identify even backyard birds with dedicated narrator, recordist, and naturalist John Neville.
To order either CD, send $25 (Canadian)--shipping is included in this price--to Neville Recordings, 810 Vernon Street, Nelson, British Columbia, V1L 4G4.
The National Federation of the Blind of California announces the results of a special election to fill vacant offices: Jim Willows, President; Donovan Cooper, First Vice President; and Nancy Burns, Second Vice President. Ollie Cantos and Nick Nedina remain as Secretary and Treasurer respectively. In our regular election we had three positions on our Board of Directors to fill. Elected to these positions were Jana Littrell, Patricia Munson, and Maria Morais.
A Highly Instructive Thank You:
Barbara Cheadle, Editor of Future Reflections, the quarterly publication of the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children, recently received notification that a long-time reader wished to cancel her subscription, not because she was angry, but because her daughter had successfully graduated from high school and was moving on into her own independent life. This is the text of the letter that accompanied this mother's request. It is a reminder of how important our work is. Here it is:
San Francisco, California
November 28, 1995
There are no words to express my gratitude for the help I have received over the years from Future Reflections. I was a foster parent to a blind Cambodian girl, with very little knowledge of all the pitfalls working with the special education program, not even to mention what a parent must go through raising a blind child. Each new publication of Future Reflections would help solve more problems with information giving me some basis for fighting the system.
For your information and some humor, I would like to pass on one teacher's comment when I told her that I was going to tape an IEP meeting. First she asked where I had heard this nonsense, then retracted the question when I quoted this suggestion from your magazine. However, she did not praise your magazine; instead she said how much trouble your articles were causing in the special education program and their policies. There were so many instances where I utilized your information that I would have to write a book to cover everything.
Again, I want to thank you a million times for the much needed guidance I received from Future Reflections.
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
I have the following two items for sale: a Grade 1« Braille Bible and a 4-track cassette copy of the Concise Heritage Dictionary. I am asking $50 each for the Bible and the dictionary. I can be reached by writing Ronald Kolesar, 1910 East Peach Street, P.O. Box 102, Girard, Pennsylvania 16417-0102. You may also call me at (814) 774-5709 (usually between 9 o'clock a.m. and 9 o'clock p.m.).
The Southern Maryland Chapter of the NFB of Maryland gathered at Mama Stella's Restaurant in Clinton, Maryland, for its fifth annual banquet. The following officers were elected: Kenneth Silberman, President; Gerelene Womack, Vice President; Edward Harley, Secretary; Bernetha McLamore, Treasurer; and Jack Darosa and Mary Skattie, Board members.
Used Notebooks For Sale:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
I have sturdy, durable three-ring binders suitable for storing 8« by 11-inch Braille paper. The sizes are «-, 2-, and 4-inch rings. These binders do have print on their covers. All sizes are $1 each. Contact Charles Groves, 1899 Washington Valley Road, Martinsville, New Jersey 08836, telephone (908) 469-9235.
Magnetic Letters and Numbers Now Include Braille:
The following information was recently called to our attention:
Playskool Learning Steps Magnetic Numbers and Playskool Magnetic Capital Letters, toys suitable for children ages three and up, are now available in most toy stores. Sets include thirty-six pieces (complete alphabet plus ten extra letters). Each piece also displays high- quality Braille. Price per box is approximately $3.99.
The National Federation of the Blind of Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, held elections in November. Following is a list of the new officers and board members: Mabel Conder, President; Bill Tucker, Vice President; Hazel Staley, Secretary; and Janis Lynn Stallins, Treasurer. The new Board members are LaVerne Gallant, Pat Robbins, and Susan Shevlin.
Members of the Triangle Federation of the Blind, the Raleigh chapter of the NFB of North Carolina, have asked us to carry the following announcement:
As one of our fund-raising projects we are selling NFB stickers. They are available in two sizes. One is about the size of a dime, and the other is about the size of the bottom of a Coke can. They are round and would make good advertising on your address labels or great bumper stickers to give to your friends and cab drivers. The stickers carry the NFB logo in blue on a white background. The price for the small sticker is $1 for 25 or $3.50 for 100. The large stickers are $.50 each. Please add $.75 for shipping. To order contact Linda Shevlin at (919) 847-3470 or write to her at 705 Northclift Drive, Raleigh, North Carolina 27609.
Sara S. Berger, Corresponding Secretary of the Greater Long Island Chapter of the NFB of New York, reports the following election results: David Stayer, President; George Dominguez, First Vice President; Brad Greenspan, Second Vice President; Lyn Jublin, Recording Secretary; Sara Berger, Corresponding Secretary; and Lorraine Stayer, Treasurer.
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
I have a VersaBraille II-Plus for sale, including internal disk drive, all Braille and print manuals, and carrying case. I am asking $2,000. For more information please call (303) 388-4023.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Daryel White]
With sorrow we report the death on December 19, 1995, of Daryel White, Vice President of the St. Louis Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Missouri. Monitor readers will remember the delightful speech about his job in auto body repair Daryel gave at the 1992 national convention, which appeared in the February, 1993, issue of the Braille Monitor. Here is part of the letter Ed Bryant wrote to leaders of the Diabetics Division about Daryel's death:
December 21, 1995
Dear Friends, On November 14 I let you know that Daryel White had received a successful kidney transplant. He was released from the hospital, and everything seemed in good order. Early in December Daryel felt shaky and ill and went back to the hospital.
Readmitted with a full body infection, he was placed in intensive care. Removal of the new kidney failed to make a difference, and he remained extremely critical for some time. Daryel fought the infection for days, but finally died the morning of December 19.
Daryel was a fighter, who didn't let blindness keep him from enjoying life. In his job as an auto body repairman, he was an example to everyone of the capacities of blind workers, and the quality of his work was the envy of sighted body men. Daryel was a good person who never passed up a chance to help others. . . .
Sincerely, Ed Bryant
Our sympathy goes to Daryel's family and his fiancee Kerry Smith.
We recently received the following letter:
Wanted:correspondence. I am twenty-five years old, a graduate of the English Department, College of the Arts, University of Baghdad. I am interested in the following: music, reading, literary works of American and English literature (classical or modern). I am also interested in reading books about the development of teaching English as a foreign language, particularly those about grammar and general linguistics. I am interested in listening to broadcasts of shortwave radio stations, particularly those in English and Arabic. I would like to have letters in Braille from people age sixteen to forty-five.
Ali Al-janaby Arab Trading Group P.O. Box 962395 Amman 11196 JORDAN